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Diplomatic flurry suggests new momentum as Iran nuclear talks resume

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A flurry of diplomacy preceding the resumption of Iran nuclear talks in the Austrian capital on Tuesday suggests sides are trying to close in on a long-sought agreement.

Iran and China coordinated strategies going into Tuesday’s renewed negotiations in Vienna on reviving world powers’ nuclear deal with Tehran. Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, indicated his country’s position was closely tracking France’s.

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Confidence-building gestures by the US and Iran have generated new optimism that the sides are inching toward an agreement that could see Iran exporting oil again before the end of the year, in exchange for constraints on its nuclear program. But disputes remain over the timing of sanctions relief and which centrifuges Iran will be allowed to operate.

Oil has dropped this week, snapping seven straight weekly gains, partly because of the progress in the Iranian talks.

Iran “stressed the need for realism from the western parties to the talks, according to a Foreign Ministry statement issued after the call late Monday between Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.

China called the Gulf nation a “strategic partner while suggesting Iran’s principled demands “will receive full attention at the talks, state-run Xinhua reported Wang as saying.

The negotiations to restore the 2015 nuclear pact, which unraveled after the Trump administration jettisoned it four years ago, have played up the rising importance of Tehran’s links to Beijing. Analysts have suggested that energy traders weighing the probability of a revived accord pay attention to growing economic relations between the countries.

But while Tehran’s strengthening links to Beijing and Moscow have long been recognized, alignment between France and Russian President Vladimir Putin potentially signals new momentum in negotiations that have dragged on for 10 months.

“We agreed that our positions on this matter are very close, or, as diplomats say, coincide, Putin said after meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Moscow on Monday.

Russia’s envoy to the talks, Mikhail Ulyanov, told the Moscow newspaper Kommersant that negotiators have reached the finish line, even as counterparts in the US have suggested significant gaps remain. If an agreement is reached, a preparation period for its implementation will begin, which may take a month or two, Ulyanov was cited as saying.

If the sides reach a deal, many traders think Tehran will be able to increase crude exports by around 1 million barrels a day within months. In Tehran, the rial gained against the dollar, for a gain of more than 5 percent since Iranian officials raised the prospect of direct talks with the US two weeks ago.

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