Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator has noted “good progress” in the eighth round of talks with world powers in Vienna, focusing primarily on the removal of sanctions.

Speaking to reporters after the latest round was adjourned on Thursday due to the New Year holidays, Ali Bagheri said negotiations were held at various levels since Monday, and relatively good progress was made.

The focus in the ongoing round, he stressed, has been on the removal of sanctions imposed by the former US administration, and the process to verify that, with correspondence taking place between Iran and other parties on both the issues.

The senior Iranian diplomat hoped that “more serious work” will be carried out on the issue of lifting sanctions once other parties return from their respective capitals on Monday.

The eighth round of marathon talks between Iran and the P4+1 (Russia, China, France, UK, and Germany) resumed in the Austrian capital last Monday after a 10-day break.

While the seventh round, which came after a five-month hiatus, focused on reviving the deal by addressing the issues of sanctions and nuclear measures, the current round is primarily centered around the removal of sanctions, verification, and guarantees, according to Iranian officials.

After the new round of talks kicked off on Monday, Bagheri stressed the importance of prioritizing lifting of sanctions, verification, and guarantees, asserting that the party that abandoned the deal must make the first move, putting the onus on the US.

The removal of sanctions, he noted, will be followed by Iran verifying it and then reversing its nuclear measures within the framework of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Pertinently, Iran has ramped up its nuclear enrichment by 60% purity since May 2019, much higher than 3.67% allowed under the 2015 deal. Iranian officials have maintained the move is reversible.

‘Talks in good direction’

While demands of the verification of sanctions’ removal as well as guarantees have been accepted by other parties, discussions on the mechanisms and frameworks to guide the process are likely to continue after the New Year holidays.

In his remarks on Tuesday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the talks in Vienna were moving in a “good direction”, adding that a deal was possible if other parties show “goodwill” and “seriousness.”

Abdullah Moradi, a Tehran-based geopolitical analyst, said the momentum appears to be shifting in Iran’s favor at Vienna, but it would be “too early” to judge the final outcome.

“Iran’s insistence on considering removal of sanctions as the main priority has become more pronounced in the eighth round, a sign that momentum is their way,” he told Anadolu Agency. “But these are early days, and we still are nowhere near the final outcome.”

He said while removal of sanctions will find “support” among other parties, primarily the European Union, the nitty-gritty of verification is likely to “complicate matters”.

“This round is important, and what happens after the parties regroup on Monday will give us an idea which way the talks are heading,” he said, adding that Iran will find it “difficult” with the US and Israel “upping the ante”.

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