EghtesadOnline: The dragged-out negotiations between Tehran and the remaining signatories to the nuclear deal are unlikely to make progress on issues such as INSTEX, particularly because Europe wants further concessions from Iran in return for helping its economy, a former diplomat commented.
"I believe that meetings of the Joint Commission [which monitors the implementation of the nuclear deal] might have turned into a process of attrition and a case of negotiations for the sake of negotiations, without any tangible outcome in sight," Abdolreza Faraji-Rad also told the Iranian Diplomacy website in a recent interview.
The remaining parties to the Iran nuclear agreement—Britain, Germany and France plus Russia and China—met Iranian officials in Vienna, Austria, on July 28 for talks called in response to an escalation in tensions between Iran and the West, which included confrontations at sea and Tehran's decision to reduce its compliance with the deal.
Iranian officials called the emergency meeting "constructive", but said there are still unresolved issues and Tehran will continue to reduce its nuclear commitments if Europe fails to salvage the pact, which US President Donald Trump walked away from in May 2018, according to Financial Tribune.
Faraji-Rad, an expert on international affairs, said Europe's efforts to protect trade with Iran against the US sanctions have yielded nothing concrete so far because of the pressure being exerted by the US administration on countries who want to help keep the agreement alive.
"Neither European countries nor any other country would be able to resist the unprecedented pressure campaign waged by the White House against Iran."
He said another reason for lack of real progress in talks is that the European Union is bogged down in internal disagreements and faces a number of challenges, including the Brexit issue and divergence of views between Paris and Berlin on some matters.
"In fact, Europe is not as united as it was in the past," he said.
Faraji-Rad said another important factor is that France, Britain and Germany are not willing to easily provide Iran with access to the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges or INSTEX—a special European payment system for trade with Tehran designed to circumvent US sanctions.
"In addition to nuclear concessions, European players are now seeking to gain concessions from Iran on its defense capabilities and regional diplomacy," he said, in reference to western demands that Tehran halt its missile program and alter its regional policies.
"What is clear so far is that no bright and promising future can be envisioned for INSTEX as no practical step has been taken by any country in this regard."
However, the former diplomat maintains that Iran's interests are unlikely to be secured even with the launch of INSTEX, which is currently confined solely to easing trade in humanitarian goods that are not subject to US sanctions, such as food and medicine, not oil.
Faraji-Rad, who formerly served as Iran's ambassador to Norway, added that recent developments in the Persian Gulf could also cause nuclear deal negotiations to remain deadlocked.
He was referring to a war of words between Iran and the West over Tehran's recent seizure of a British-flagged tanker, Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz, which followed Britain's seizure on July 4 of the Iranian tanker Grace 1 off the coast of the British Mediterranean territory of Gibraltar.
Iran says Stena Impero had collided with a fishing vessel and ignored distress calls, while London has accused Iran of taking oil to Syria in violation of European sanctions against the war-hit Arab country. Both sides deny any wrongdoing.