Cites recent U.S. sanctions which could cast shadow on Geneva accord

Iran has walked out of expert level talks in Vienna, following the imposition of fresh sanctions by the United States—its move demonstrating the fragility of the implementation of the nuclear deal in Geneva between Tehran and the six global powers.

“The negotiations were halted by [the] Iranian delegation because of new American sanctions. The Iranian negotiating team has halted the talks at this stage and are headed back to the capital due to America’s lack of commitment to the agreement,” Iran’s Mehr news agency quoted Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, as saying.

The Vienna talks were being held as a follow-up to the November 24 Geneva accord, which has set in motion a process of dialogue intended to yield a permanent agreement guaranteeing the peaceful orientation of Iran’s nuclear programme in return for mainstreaming Tehran’s sanctions- hit economy. On Thursday, the U.S. treasury department imposed curbs on 19 companies and individuals for evading sanctions against Iran.

The European Union (EU) has downplayed the suspension of talks, with the spokesman for Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, saying that discussions were expected to resume soon. John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State also said in Jerusalem on Friday that talks were expected to restart “in the next few days”.

The latest U.S. move has clearly upset the Iranians, bringing to the fore the fault lines between the pragmatists and hardliners within the folds of the Iranian establishment.

“This two-sided game and confusion we are witnessing is not beneficial for the atmosphere of the talks,” said Mr. Araqchi according to the Tasnim news agency. Another senior Iranian official, Mohammad Khazaei, the country’s permanent representative to the United Nations, observed that the sanctions move “under the current sensitive conditions leave serious negative effects on the process of the negotiations”.

While neither of the two officials espoused breaching the Geneva accord, Iran’s prominent lawmaker and head of parliament’s national security committee, Alaeddin Boroujerdi stressed the need for a more assertive response. “Given the hostile approach of this country [the United States] and the violation of the Geneva agreement, one cannot be optimistic about the future of the nuclear talks. We should in fact take necessary measures to expedite our peaceful [nuclear] activities,” he observed. Mr. Boroujerdi further added that the imposition of new sanctions meant that the U.S. side is “not trustworthy”.

The Iranian side has also resented what is described as the “very slow” pace of the talks in Vienna.

As the post-Geneva phase of talks encounters its first hiccups, the Russians have expressed their anxiety about the conclusion of the dialogue between the sextet and Iran within the stipulated six month period, as stated in the Geneva accord.

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov said he was worried that the first steps to implement agreements under the Geneva accord may be delayed to January 2014. This was because all member states of the EU have to endorse the Geneva agreement—a process that might be put off till January.

Analysts say that any delay in implementation might mean the six month deadline for working out a permanent accord might be missed, providing hardliners ammunition to target the Geneva deal.

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