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Vienna talks: Iran says based on agreements so far, US sanctions on oil, banks would be lifted

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi's claims came after US said on Friday that talks were in 'an unclear place'
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi leaves the Grand Hotel Wien after closed-door nuclear talks in Vienna on 27 April 2021 (AFP)

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator said on Saturday that Tehran expected US sanctions on oil, banks and other sectors, and on most individuals and institutions, to be lifted based on agreements reached so far at talks in Vienna, Iranian state media reported.

Russia and western European powers, meanwhile, gave contrasting accounts of the task ahead in the talks to bring Iran and the United States fully back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, as the talks adjourned for six days, according to Reuters.

"Sanctions... on Iran's energy sector, which include oil and gas, or those on the automotive industry, financial, banking and port sanctions, all should be lifted based on agreements reached so far," Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi was quoted as saying by Iranian state media.

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Araghchi did not say under which mechanism sanctions would be lifted or refer to how Tehran would meet Washington's demands and return to its commitments under the deal.

"We will negotiate until the two sides' positions come closer and our demands are met," he said. "If they are met there will be an agreement, if not there will naturally be no agreement."

Asked to comment, the US State Department referred back to past statements, including remarks on Friday from the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, who said the talks were in "an unclear place".

"We've seen the willingness of all sides, including the Iranians, to talk seriously about sanctions relief restrictions and a pathway back into the JCPOA," Sullivan said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal's title.

"But it is still uncertain as to whether this will culminate in a deal in Vienna," he said.

The State Department also referred to remarks by its spokesman Ned Price on Thursday, when he said the sides were "not on the cusp of any breakthrough" and there was "a potentially long road ahead".

US President Joe Biden is seeking to return to the deal after Washington pulled out in 2018 under then-president Donald Trump and reimposed sanctions against Tehran. Iran responded as of 2019 by breaching many of the deal's limits on its nuclear activities.

'We have much work, and little time, left'

- Statement from France, Britain and Germany

The talks began last month in Vienna with the remaining parties to the deal - Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - meeting in the basement of a luxury hotel, with the United States based in another hotel across the street. Iran has refused to hold direct meetings with US officials.

"We have much work, and little time, left. Against that background, we would have hoped for more progress this week," senior diplomats from the so-called E3 - France, Britain and Germany - said in a statement.

Officials have said they hope to reach a deal by 21 May, when an agreement between Tehran and the UN nuclear watchdog on continued monitoring of some Iranian nuclear activities is due to expire.

"We have yet to come to an understanding on the most critical points. Success is by no means guaranteed, but not impossible," they added.

'Continue diplomatic, day-to-day work'

"We should not expect breakthroughs in the days to come," Russia's ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog, Mikhail Ulyanov, told reporters after a meeting of the remaining parties that wrapped up the third round of talks, adding the talks would reconvene on Friday.

"We need simply to continue diplomatic, day-to-day work, and we have all the reasons to expect that the outcome, [the] final outcome, will be successful and it will come quite soon, in a few weeks," said Ulyanov.

In his remarks, Araghchi said that "There are individuals and institutions that have been specifically sanctioned and their [the US's] list is long. Talks on the list are still ongoing."

He added that, under what had been agreed so far, more than a majority of the list would have the sanctions lifted.