Iran and the six powers finally agreed on the wording of an interim agreement in Geneva over Tehran's nuclear program. The deal is for six months during which Iran will not expand its nuclear program. In return, it would get relief of about $4.2 billion in oil revenue sales. Relief on medicines and import of gold and metals would also be provided.
November 23, 2013, 23:29 EST
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country and the six powers had finally agreed on a long-awaited deal on Tehran’s nuclear energy program. The deal was announced early Sunday morning (Geneva time) after several days of intense negotiations during the third round of talks in the Swiss city.
Michael Mann, spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, confirmed that an interim deal had been agreed with Iran as did the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
The latest round of talks that had started on Wednesday (November 20) were scheduled for two days but were extended for three more days as the talks progressed. These were not always easy. In fact, at one stage, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs, Seyyed Abbas Araqchi, announced that unless Iran’s enrichment right was recognized, there would be no deal.
On Friday when Zarif concluded a fifth round of talks with Ashton, it was announced that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would travel to Geneva to join the talks. A little later, the US Secretary of State John Kerry was also on his way to Geneva. Soon thereafter, foreign ministers of the other three powers—China, Britain and France—were also on their way to Geneva signaling that the talks had entered a crucial phase.
The input of foreign ministers of the sextet was needed to finalize the deal that Zarif said was 90% complete but the final 10%, the most difficult part, needed input of the other top diplomats.
Zarif held three rounds of talks with Ashton and Kerry on Saturday and while they closed the gap in the deal, the final draft was held up in wording. At one point, Araqchi expressed doubt that an agreement would be reached on Saturday. This had to wait until the early hours of Sunday to finalize.
Under the interim deal, Iran would suspend enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, not continue the work on the heavy water reactor at Arak as well as allow more intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities (something already agreed with the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA]). In return, the US would allow Iran access to $4.2 billion in foreign exchange from its oil sales as well as a potential $1.5 billion in petrochemical sales.
This is short of what Iran had hoped to get. The US itself is holding tens of billions of dollars of Iranian assets. There are also tens of billions of dollars of Iran’s money in countries like India, China and South Africa from oil sales.
The current deal is for a six-month period during which Iran and the sextet would negotiate a final agreement that would satisfy both the West’s concerns as well as move toward removal of all sanctions that are considered illegal under international law.
Iran has always maintained that its nuclear program is peaceful in nature. No proof has been found to give clue that Iran is doing otherwise.
The interim deal is a “first step” as Kerry said at a press conference in Geneva half hour ago (05:00 hour Sunday morning) and the next steps would be even more difficult but perhaps the process of negotiating rather than threatening war and sabre rattling has been launched.