U.S.-Iran nuclear deal talks begin amid tensions

U.S. President Joe Biden and Iran President Ebrahim Raisi

Negotiations on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal will resume on Monday in Vienna amid few signs of progress and a tense atmosphere.

Five months after the last round of talks, high-ranking diplomats from Germany, France, Britain, Russia, and China are returning to the Austrian capital to mediate between representatives of Tehran and Washington.

“We don’t think the West wants an agreement,” Iranian chief negotiator Ali Bagheri said on the eve of the talks.

His U.S. counterpart, Robert Malley, recently indicated a shift towards a tougher stance if Tehran does not relent.

A quick breakthrough is not expected.

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The goal of the talks is to salvage the landmark 2015 agreement, which restricted Iran’s nuclear programme to prevent the country from developing nuclear weapons.

Western sanctions were lifted in return.

But the U.S. pulled out of the pact in 2018 under president Donald Trump, reviving sanctions that severely hit Iran’s economy.

Tehran then once again expanded its nuclear facilities, producing near-weapons-grade uranium and limiting international inspections.

Now both sides are seeking ways to de-escalate the rift.