Richard Nephew, the deputy special envoy for Iran, left his post as part of the US team negotiating with Tehran.
A State Department official confirmed to Reuters on Monday that Nephew was no longer part of the US negotiating team, but he will remain a State Department employee. The official did not provide a reason for Nephew’s resignation but noted that such a move was “very common” after a year in the administration.
Earlier on Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Nephew had resigned due to a difference of opinion on how to approach the negotiations with Iran, reportedly advocating for a tougher posture in negotiations.
The US has yet to directly engage in negotiations, participating through European allies.
Administration officials told the Journal that two other members of the negotiating team had decided to step back from engaging in talks due to sharing in Nephew’s opinion of having a tougher approach.
As Reuters reported, news of these internal disagreements within the US negotiating team comes at a critical point in the talks with Iran, with the US and its European allies recently stating there are only weeks left to salvage the agreement.
Iran has rejected US officials’ remarks about a deadline for reaching an agreement and stressed the country is only after a good agreement.
Tehran says the Iranian negotiators in Vienna talks on removal of US sanctions will continue their presence in the Austrian capital as long as needed and will not pay attention to the deadlines set by the other sides.
Iran and the five remaining parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China — began the talks in the Austrian capital in April with the aim of removing the sanctions after the US voiced its willingness to return to the agreement.
During the seventh round of the Vienna talks, the first under President Ebrahim Raeisi, Iran presented two draft texts which address, separately, the removal of US sanctions and Iran’s return to its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA. Tehran also said it was preparing a third draft text on the verification of the sanctions removal.
The eighth round of talks kicked off in Vienna in late December. The negotiations seek to restore the JCPOA in its original form and bring the US back into the agreement.
Iran insists that the talks must lead to the removal of all American sanctions that were imposed against Tehran following Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the landmark agreement in May 2018. Tehran has also demanded credible guarantees that Washington will not abandon the deal again.