Iran’s nuclear programme.. Bennett asks Washington for an “immediate halt” to talks, and Tehran presents two draft agreements

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday asked the United States for an “immediate halt” to talks in Vienna on Iran’s nuclear program, while Tehran submitted two drafts on lifting sanctions and nuclear commitments.

In a statement issued in Arabic, the Israeli Prime Minister quoted Bennett as saying – during a phone call with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken – that Iran is practicing “nuclear blackmail as one of the tactics for conducting negotiations, and that the appropriate response is to stop the negotiations immediately and take strict steps by the great powers.” .

Bennett indicated that Iran has started the process of enriching uranium to a level of 20% through advanced centrifuges located in the underground Fordow facility.

Israel – which considers Iran its archenemy – fears that Tehran will become close to the “nuclear threshold”, meaning that it has enough fuel to produce an atomic bomb, and therefore opposes the resumption of negotiations on the Iranian nuclear file.

For his part, the US Secretary of State said that he held constructive talks with the Israeli Prime Minister, as part of the talks with the Israelis regarding the Iranian nuclear file, stressing the existence of the same strategic goal, which is that Iran does not possess nuclear weapons and deters it from that.

These Israeli statements come at a time when meetings are continuing between the delegations participating in the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear file to discuss what was reached during the last round, with amendments being made to points that Tehran rejects or has reservations about.

Tehran proposal

Earlier on Thursday, Iranian state media reported that Tehran had submitted to the European powers participating in the 2015 nuclear agreement, two drafts on lifting sanctions and nuclear commitments.

The chief Iranian negotiator, Ali Bagheri, said that the proposed proposal does not address lifting sanctions by following a step-by-step policy, explaining that there is a third draft that has not yet been delivered and it is looking at how to ensure that sanctions are lifted.

This came after Bagheri said that he had fruitful talks with the Director General of the Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, adding, “My discussions with Grossi are aimed at continuing cooperation with the IAEA.”

Bagheri said that he had presented a proposal regarding lifting US sanctions, and the steps Iran would take to revive the nuclear agreement, during the ongoing negotiations in Vienna.

He added that the parties to the nuclear agreement should study his country’s proposal and prepare for serious negotiations regarding these proposals. He pointed out that parties outside the nuclear agreement group are trying to influence the negotiations with the aim of thwarting them.

The Iranian official confirmed that his country had issued a warning to the “4+1” group not to allow any party outside the negotiations to negatively influence it.

Blinken’s statements

On the other hand, the US Secretary of State said during a meeting in Stockholm that Washington will not accept the fait accompli that Iran wants to impose with regard to the nuclear agreement.

“Our team is in Vienna at the moment, and in the coming days we will be able to judge whether Iran has good faith in this deal,” Blinken added.

Blinken considered that the recent indicators are not optimistic, but it is not too late for Iran to reverse its behavior and make efforts to continue the talks.

He continued, “What Iran can do is stop the nuclear program, which may happen. Iran must prove its seriousness to take the necessary steps and return to the agreement.”

agreement and priorities

And Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian has previously said that a good deal is within reach if the West shows goodwill.

Abdullahian added – in a tweet to him on Twitter – that the Vienna talks are taking place in earnest, and lifting sanctions is a primary priority for Iran, and that the experts’ talks are continuing, stressing that his country seeks a rational and sober dialogue that will yield results.

The Iranian foreign minister also said, “We welcome serious negotiations and any good consensus, and the other side should show goodwill.”

He added, “We went to Vienna with serious determination, but we are not optimistic about the intention of Washington and Europe. The important thing is that the negotiations reach a conclusion and that the Western parties show their seriousness.”

For his part, adviser to the Iranian delegation in the Vienna negotiations, Muhammad Marandi, told Al Jazeera that the current obstacle to these talks is the American position, adding that the United States wants to maintain sanctions on his country. Marandi added that the Europeans acted logically during the Vienna negotiations.

The Iranian negotiating team at the entrance to the hotel hosting the negotiations (Reuters)

Tour and optimism

The statements of the Iranian officials come at a time when the seventh round of negotiations to revive the Iranian nuclear agreement continues for the fourth day in the Austrian capital Vienna, amid an atmosphere of optimism spread by European statements about making great progress towards settling the existing differences.

The Iranian news agency said that the chief Iranian negotiator, Ali Bagheri, discussed – Wednesday in Vienna – with the European Union coordinator, Enrique Mora, to coordinate arrangements for the continuation of negotiations in the coming days, noting that Bagheri will also meet with representatives of the three European countries that are members of the nuclear agreement (Britain, France and Germany).

European diplomats stressed that the coming days would allow an assessment of the Iranians’ seriousness, and expressed their hope that by the end of the week they would have a clearer picture of the negotiating track, noting the possibility of halting the negotiations in the absence of progress.

On Tuesday, a European official confirmed the completion of 80% of the nuclear agreement.

In the previous six rounds, there were similar comments that significant progress had been made toward drafting an agreement, but talks stalled last June ahead of Iran’s presidential elections without reaching a conclusion.

In a related context, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that “with the progress of the talks in Vienna, the Israeli entity appears for what it is and calls for stopping the negotiations.”

Khatibzadeh added that it was not surprising that Israel was disturbed by the dialogue, “which was founded on war and tension,” saying that the delegates in Vienna would not receive their instructions from the Prime Minister in Israel.

On the other hand, the head of the Israeli Mossad said that “Iran will not have a nuclear weapon, and we pledge to do so.”

Fertilize and check

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran had started enriching uranium to 20% at the “Fordo” facility that was established inside a mountain in Qom province.

The agency added – in a report to its member states – that Iran uses advanced centrifuges in the enrichment process.

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that it would increase the pace of verification operations inside the Fordow facility, noting that Tehran had agreed to this.

On the other hand, the Iranian Foreign Ministry responded by saying that media reports about Iran’s nuclear are lies aimed at destroying the possibility of the success of the Vienna negotiations.

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