Iran – P5+1: What Happened from Moscow to Almaty?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mohammad Sadri
Expert on Nuclear Issues

The period of time from negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers over Tehran’s nuclear energy program in Moscow in June 2012, and the forthcoming round of talks which is scheduled to be held in the Kazakh city of Almaty on February 26, 2013, has been characterized by a heap of political developments. A review of those developments will help analysts better understand the situation of Iran and the P5+1 – including the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China plus Germany – in the forthcoming negotiations in Almaty.

The following article recounts the most important diplomatic and strategic developments which took place in the interval between the spring of 2012 and the winter of 2013.

1. Situation of the current negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 is, in fact, a result of negotiations in Moscow which were held on June 18, 2012. In those negotiations, the Iranian side:

1.1. Offered the opposite party with a comprehensive package of proposals including a framework for the continuation of negotiations which included reciprocal steps to be taken toward final diplomatic resolution of the nuclear issue. The proposals were presented in writing and were also made available to the mass media immediately following the meeting. Within that framework, Iran had projected five steps to be taken by both parties as such:

The first step: The P5+1 would publicly announce its recognition of Iran's right to enrich uranium with Iran, in turn, committing to never pursue any kind of military nuclear projects as per the religious edict (fatwa) issued by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei;

The second step: Announcement by Iran of its readiness to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the resolution of all doubts about a possible military dimension to Iran's nuclear energy program, and the P5+1 will reciprocally lift all unilateral sanctions which have been imposed on Iran by its member states;

The third step: Announcement by Iran of its readiness to cooperate with regard to the provision of necessary nuclear fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (which means temporary halt of 20-percent uranium enrichment), in return for the abrogation of all sanctions resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council;

The fourth step: Nuclear cooperation between Iran and the P5+1;

The fifth step: Non-nuclear cooperation between Iran and the P5+1.

1.2. The Iranian side argued that the aforesaid framework would provide a mechanism for the resolution of the nuclear issue in which the entire deal would turn into a win-win game for both parties. From the viewpoint of Iran, this framework firstly, addresses the two parties’ concerns and is a practical way to dispel them. Secondly, it would pave the way for extensive and long-term cooperation in various fields between the two sides, thus, facilitating possible difficult issues and differences which may emerge in the future. Thirdly, by complying with that framework, the P5+1 group would be able to announce that the UN Security Council resolutions have been met as those resolutions just called for the suspension of enrichment in Iran without mentioning its level. Therefore, the P5+1 group can consider suspension of 20-percent enrichment as the fulfillment of the Security Council’s resolutions.

2. The P5+1 group did not give any response of essence to Iran's proposed package. In fact, the group was not ready to enter into detailed discussions on the contents of the package. Perhaps it can be said that the group did not expect to receive such a detailed proposal package from Iran. That was why a member of the P5+1 clearly noted that the depth and richness of issues put forth by Iran during negotiations was by no means comparable to what P5+1 had to say.

3. Iran's proposals in Moscow were, in fact, offered in response to another proposal which the P5+1 had already put before Iran during a previous round of talks in the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad. In Baghdad, the group had proposed that Iran should change the course of its nuclear energy program through two phases of confidence building and one phase of compliance in such a way that the resolutions adopted by the Security Council and the Board of Governors of the IAEA would be met. Iran immediately rejected P5+1’s proposal in Baghdad and announced that continuation of talks was not possible on the basis of that proposal and if the P5+1 insisted on it, it would mean the end of negotiations. It should be noted that the P5+1 had firstly, accepted in Baghdad that future talks should be totally based on the NPT, but it actually went back over its word by putting that proposal forth. Secondly, Iran considers the Security Council’s resolutions on its nuclear energy program illegal and has frequently announced that it will never implement those resolutions. Tehran argues that negotiations with the P5+1 started for the reason that Iran does not intend to implement the Security Council resolutions, because if it had wanted to comply with them, it would not need to negotiate with the P5+1 in the first place. Thirdly, from the viewpoint of Iran, no negotiations could take place if the other party stressed on the suspension of 5-percent uranium enrichment by Iran.

4. During negotiations in Moscow, the P5+1 group had based its strategy on the principle that escalation of pressure on Iran through sanctions would finally change Iran's way of thinking followed by a change in its proposal for the nuclear case. As a result, they concluded, the group would be able to manage the negotiations in its own favor by escalating pressure without giving considerable concessions to Iran. On the other hand, Iran showed during Istanbul 2, Baghdad, and Moscow negotiations that firstly, its nuclear calculations will not change as a result of any kind of pressure. Secondly, Iran managed to make the Western side realize that their capacity to put more pressure on Iran is much lower than what they claimed and the impact of those pressures on domestic environment in the country was also much less severe than the West had actually reckoned. And thirdly, Iran is in the meantime totally resilient and logical and is ready to put part of its nuclear program on the table as the subject of negotiations.

5. The final agreement reached through Moscow negotiations was as such:

In the first step, negotiations would be held between experts representing the P5+1 and an expert team from Iran in the Turkish port city of Istanbul. The negotiations were held on July 3, 2012.

In the second step, deputies of Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, would meet. The meeting was held at the scheduled date.

In the third step, Saeed Jalili and Catherine Ashton would negotiate through the phone. The negotiations were held on August 2, 2012.

In the fourth and last step, Saeed Jalili and Catherine Ashton would meet in person. That meeting was held in Istanbul on September 18, 2012.

6. The expert talks held between Iran and the P5+1 in Istanbul on July 3, 2012, were of high significance and their importance had no parallel throughout the history of Iran's nuclear energy program. During those talks, the Iranian expert team entered into detailed discussions with the expert team representing the P5+1 on technical, legal and political aspects of Iran's nuclear issue. The most important points covered in those negotiations were as follows:

6.1. During expert talks in Istanbul, the P5+1 posed all questions and doubts it had about technical and legal aspects of Iran's nuclear energy program on the table, and the Iranian team answered all of them. In that session which continued until after the midnight, even nuclear experts representing the United States were present and asked their questions from the Iranian expert team. At the end of the session, one of the members of the P5+1 team clearly noted that the group had no more questions. Another member of the P5+1 team stated that if negotiations continued in the same way, Iran's nuclear case could be closed in a matter of a week. Some 75 percent of questions and answers in that session were exchanged between representatives of the Islamic Republic and the United States.

6.2. During the same meeting, the P5+1 group merely emphasized on the first phase of its proposal and was not ready to enter into negotiations on other phases of the deal. The Iranian team, on the contrary, emphasized that the P5+1’s proposal could be only discussed if all three phases of the proposal were considered as the same time.

6.3. During the meeting, Iran argued that even if the viewpoint of the P5+1 that the NPT should be taken as a basis for negotiations were accepted, there would still be no room for requesting Iran to totally stop enriching uranium to 5 percent level because suspension of the enrichment had basically no place in the NPT.

6.4. The P5+1 group, especially the United States, accepted in that meeting that all the nuclear and enrichment activities of the Islamic Republic, including the nuclear work going on at Fordow nuclear facility, were under the supervision of the IAEA. Since such activities that are completely carried out under the eyes of the IAEA cannot be source of concern, it would be meaningless to ask for them to be closed down.

6.5. It was also stressed during the same meeting that Iran did not negotiate about halting the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent level. However, the Iranian experts noted that Tehran may be willing to consider the P5+1’s request for the suspension of the 20-percent enrichment on a temporary basis and for a specified period of time, provided that it would not interfere with Iran's rights as per the NPT and be reciprocated by the removal of all unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

6.6. During those negotiations, it was announced that Iran would not renounce its rights, but is not seeking to enforce all of them at the same time. Tehran said it would assert its rights in accordance with its needs and programs. For example, as for the 20-percent enrichment, the P5+1 group was neither ready to sell the nuclear fuel to Iran, nor accepted the fuel swap deal. In other words, the P5+1 group neither accepted to agree with Iran producing  20-percent enriched nuclear fuel, nor was ready to sell radio-medicines to Iran. Well, under these conditions did Iran have another choice, but to start independently to produce radio-medicines for about one million cancer patients who depend on them?

6.7. The result of Istanbul negotiations was that firstly, the P5+1 group totally realized that its understanding of the nature of Iran's nuclear energy program as well as Iran's technical decisions in this regard was completely incorrect. Secondly, direct answers were given to the United States’ questions about the nuclear energy program of Iran. And thirdly, the United States came to realize that the Baghdad proposal should be reframed.

7. The second step on which the two parties had reached an agreement in Moscow was that following the expert talks, Iran's Ali Baqeri (deputy to the Iranian top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili) and the P5+1’s Helga Schmid (deputy to the P5+1’s chief negotiator, Catherine Ashton) would meet in Istanbul on July 24, 2012. During that meeting, Baqeri noted that the third step of the Moscow proposal – that is, complete halt of Iran's 20-percent enrichment in return for the cessation of all kinds of sanctions against the Islamic Republic – could be further subdivided into smaller and more detailed steps in order to be easier for both parties to implement. Iran proposed nine secondary steps in this regard all of which came under the third step of the Moscow proposal.

8. The third step was phone talks between the two parties’ top negotiators, Saeed Jalili and Catherine Ashton, on August 2, 2012. During the phone call, Jalili emphasized that Iran expected an official and detailed answer to the package of proposals it had offered the P5+1 in Moscow negotiations.

9. The fourth step was a face to face meeting between Jalili and Ashton which was held in Istanbul on Tuesday, September 18, 2012. During the meeting, Jalili explained that Iran's views had not changed since the two parties engaged in negotiations in Moscow and also compared to the viewpoints which had been brought up in a subsequent meeting between deputies of two top negotiators.

10. Since the last meeting between Jalili and Ashton in Istanbul, there have been many reports in the Western media about the formulation of a new package of proposals by the P5+1 for presentation to Iran. It should be noted that firstly, no direct talks have been conducted between Iran and the United States and all reports published by the Western sources in this regard have been nothing but propaganda hype. Secondly, Iran welcomes any new proposal by the P5+1 which would be more realistic and balanced, but has not received any official proposal in this regard and media reports to this effect are not considered authentic by Tehran. Thirdly, the framework proposed by Iran in Moscow talks as well as additional steps which were worked out during the latest meeting between the deputies of Jalili and Ashton still remain Iran's official positions on the nuclear talks and have not changed thus far.

Key Words: Iran, P5+1, Moscow to Almaty, IAEA, Nuclear Program, Uranium Enrichment, UNSC, Proposal Package, Ashton, Jalili, Sadri

Source: Source: IranNuc.IR
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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