US and Russia ‘coordinating closely’ in Iran talks

Government officials on both sides say they are cooperating in an attempt to renew the nuclear deal.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The United States is working closely with Russia in Vienna to try and bring the nuclear talks with Iran to a successful conclusion, officials from both governments said Wednesday.

The Russian emissary to the negotiations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, tweeted that he had met twice that day with Robert Malley, the American special envoy, to work on ways that both sides could rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 deal’s official name.

“Close consultations and coordination between the Russian and the US delegations in the course of the Vienna talks constitute an important prerequisite for progress towards the restoration of the JCPOA,” he wrote.

After the second meeting, the ambassador praised their “dialogue,” calling it “intensive” and “useful,” with the words placed over a picture of the two men sitting alone opposite each other in the middle of long tables set up with a water bottle, glass, pens and paper at each setting

On the American side, a senior administration official said that an upcoming phone call Thursday between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden will “likely” have Iran on the agenda, “given that we have ongoing talks in Vienna now and the US, our European partners, and the Russians have been coordinating quite closely in Vienna, working quite constructively together in Vienna.”

As Iran has continued to reject direct talks with the U.S., in this eighth round of negotiations the American delegates are working as they have done before, through their counterparts from Germany, France, Great Britain and the EU.  Cooperation with Russia could be seen as a positive step, considering that the American rival is generally more supportive of the Iranian side.

The Islamic Republic has taken a hardline position that demands that economic sanctions be lifted before it scales back its uranium enrichment and stockpiling, both of which have far exceeded the limitations set for them in the original nuclear deal.

For weeks, the Americans and their European allies have been warning that time is short for renewing the JCPOA, as Iran’s pace of development of its nuclear program will soon make the deal irrelevant.

Iran does not seem to feel the urgency, as the talks closed Wednesday night for an extra-long weekend, with their resumption planned for Monday.