External factors force pause in Iran nuclear talks: EU’s Borrell

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Iran and world powers will pause talks on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal due to “external factors,” the European Union’s foreign policy chief said on Friday, after last-minute Russian demands threatened to torpedo otherwise largely completed talks.

“A pause in #ViennaTalks is needed, due to external factors,” Josep Borrell said on Twitter. “A final text is essentially ready and on the table.”

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Tehran on Thursday suggested there were new obstacles to reviving the deal. Washington underlined that it had no intention of accommodating Russia’s demands, which it has said have nothing to do with the Iran talks. It added that a small number of outstanding and difficult issues were still yet to be resolved for a deal to be reached.

Parties in the talks had been expecting to conclude by last Sunday a deal that would bring Iran back into compliance with restrictions on its rapidly advancing nuclear activities, and see the United States rejoining the accord. Nearly four years ago the then US President Donald Trump decided to leave the 2015 nuclear deal, and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran.

However, on Saturday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov unexpectedly demanded sweeping guarantees that Russian trade with Iran would not be affected by sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine - a demand Western powers say is unacceptable and Washington has insisted it will not entertain.

Russia’s demand initially angered Tehran and appeared to help it and Washington move towards agreement on the few remaining thorny issues, diplomats said, but a sudden volley of public comments by Iranian officials including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Thursday suggested the wind had turned.

“As coordinator, I will, with my team, continue to be in touch with all JCPOA participants and the US to overcome the current situation and to close the agreement,” Borrell said, referring to the full name of the accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

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