Iran and world powers on Tuesday held what they described as “constructive” talks, and agreed to form working groups to discuss the sanctions that Washington might lift and the nuclear curbs Tehran might observe as they try to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
While the US and Iran have said that they do not expect any quick breakthroughs, and Tehran for now rejects face-to-face talks, both nations and the EU described the talks in positive terms.
European intermediaries have started shuttling between Iranian and US officials in Vienna as they seek to bring them back into compliance with the accord, which lifted sanctions on Iran in return for curbs to its nuclear program.
Former US president Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, prompting Iran to steadily overstep the accord’s limits on its nuclear program designed to make it more difficult to develop an atomic bomb — an ambition that Tehran denies having.
Tuesday’s talks included a meeting of the remaining parties to the original deal: Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia and the UK in a group called the Joint Commission that is chaired by the EU.
The US did not attend.
“Constructive Joint Commission meeting. There’s unity and ambition for a joint diplomatic process with two expert groups on nuclear implementation and sanctions lifting,” EU diplomat Enrique Mora wrote on Twitter.
A source familiar with the matter said that diplomats briefed the US delegation after their talks with Iran and the wider group.
The two expert-level groups have been given the task of marrying lists of sanctions that the US could lift with nuclear obligations Iran should meet, and reporting back tomorrow, when the Joint Commission is to meet again.
“The talks in Vienna were constructive,” Iranian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi told Iranian state television.
In Washington, US Department of State spokesman Ned Price told reporters: “It is a welcome step, it is a constructive step, it is a potentially useful step,” even as he repeated the US expectation that the indirect talks would be “difficult.”
A resolution of the nuclear issue could help ease tensions in the Middle East, notably between Iran and Israel, as well as between Tehran and US Sunni Arab allies, such as Saudi Arabia, who fear the possibility of Shiite Iran getting nuclear arms.
In a possible sign of such strains, an Iranian cargo ship came under attack in the Red Sea, al-Arabiya TV reported, citing unnamed sources, and news agency Tasnim said that the vessel was targeted by a limpet mine.
Al-Arabiya cited its sources as saying that the ship was attacked off Eritrea and was affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, but gave no evidence to support the assertion.
The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has fully vaccinated 90 percent of its eligible adult population within just seven days, the Bhutanese Ministry of Health said on Tuesday. The tiny country, wedged between India and China and home to nearly 800,000 people, began giving out second doses on Tuesday last week in a mass drive that has been hailed by the UN Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) as “arguably the fastest vaccination campaign to be executed during a pandemic.” Bhutan grabbed headlines in April when its government said it had inoculated about the same percentage of eligible adults with the first dose
CAUSE FOR ALARM: The virus has spread through 14 provinces in just a few days despite high vaccination rates, as authorities ramp up containment measures China is confronting its broadest COVID-19 outbreak since the pathogen emerged in late 2019 after the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant broke through the country’s defenses, with cases now in 14 provinces. While the overall number of infections — more than 300 so far — is much lower than outbreaks elsewhere, the wide spread indicates that the variant has been on the loose for some time and is alarming officials who wield the strictest containment measures in the world. It is the biggest challenge for the world’s second-largest economy since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December
MISINFORMATION: The digital giant said there were ‘numerous’ offending videos that were removed from the channel, which has 1.85 million subscribers Sky News Australia has been banned from uploading content to YouTube for seven days after contravening its medical misinformation policies by posting numerous videos that denied the existence of COVID-19 or encouraged people to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin. The ban was imposed by the digital giant on Thursday afternoon, the day after the UK’s Daily Telegraph ended Alan Jones’ regular column amid controversy about his COVID-19 commentary, which included calling the New South Wales Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant a village idiot on his Sky News program. YouTube has not disclosed which Sky News program the videos were from, but said there
CLAMPDOWN: Sydney’s lockdown has been extended three times, and more than 1,300 police were patrolling the city on Saturday to deter any would-be demonstrators Sydney reported a record-matching number of new local cases of COVID-19, while infections also rose in the state of Queensland, a day after its most-populous region went into lockdown. There were 239 cases in Sydney in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday, equal to the tally set three days earlier and the most since the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 began sweeping through the nation’s largest city in June. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said there were some signs that the virus is mostly being contained to parts of Sydney’s southwest, where the strictest curbs are in place. While most residents have