Iran’s deputy foreign minister says negotiations with European countries and China on salvaging the 2015 nuclear deal following Washington’s withdrawal will continue as senior diplomats concluded their talks in Vienna.
“For the time being, we are negotiating...to see if they can provide us with a package that can actually give Iran the benefits of sanctions-lifting,” Abbas Araqchi told reporters on May 25 after his talks with diplomats from France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and China.
“Then, the next step is to find guarantees for that package, and we need both legal and political commitments by the remaining participants in the [nuclear deal]."
The senior diplomats met in an attempt to prevent the deal from collapsing after President Donald Trump on May 8 pulled the United States out and announced he would reinstate sanctions against Tehran.
Iranian leaders have said they will uphold their side of the deal, which involves strict curbs on their nuclear program, if the other signees uphold theirs by making sure that Iran can keep doing business with the world, despite the revived U.S. sanctions.
"To be honest with you, we are not confident," one senior Iranian official said earlier, adding that Tehran wants European powers to present it with a package of measures “by the end of May."
Iranian ministers are under orders from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to seek guarantees from the Europeans for Iranian oil sales and trade, as well as their agreement to spurn U.S. efforts to negotiate a stronger and broader deal with Tehran.
Khamenei laid out a series of conditions on May 23 that he said must be met for Iran to stay in the deal.
The European powers were expected to highlight EU efforts to legally shield European companies that have established ties with Iran from the U.S. sanctions so they can continue doing business in Iran.
Diplomats said the European Union was trying to make sure that such businesses are not affected in particular by U.S. sanctions prohibiting Iran from using the U.S. dollar or U.S. financial institutions to transact business.
Iranian officials were expected to carefully scrutinize the package of measures EU officials have cobbled together to try to counter the U.S. sanctions.
Some European officials have been openly skeptical that the measures will be effective in keeping businesses from fleeing Iran. Several major corporations, including France's Total and Germany's Allianz, have already announced they are leaving unless they receive exemptions from the U.S. sanctions.
"I think this is a moment of truth for the Europeans," EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini said before the Vienna talks.
European and Russian leaders say the deal has accomplished its goal of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons while contributing to stability in the Middle East.
French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking at business forum in St. Petersburg, said his aim is to “gradually” persuade Trump to return to negotiations on the deal.
He claimed that Trump did not like the 2015 deal because it was negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama.
Also in St. Petersburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the changing policies of U.S. administrations, saying American leaders should not change international agreements after each presidential election.
He added that unilateral U.S. sanctions on Iran are “counterproductive” and will to a “dead end.” He urged all sides to find a solution “through dialogue.”