Nuclear Talks at a Turning Point: Agreement or Extension?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Hamid Reza Asefi
Former Spokesman of Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The eighth round of nuclear talks between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the member states of the P5+1 group of countries ended in the Austrian capital city of Vienna on Thursday and the Iranian negotiating team headed back to Iran. This round of the negotiations was much shorter than the seventh round of talks, which lasted for about 10 days, and most talks either took place between Iran's representative and the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, or among [Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad] Zarif, [his American counterpart,] John Kerry, and Ms. Ashton. Negotiations with other countries as well as negotiations among political directors from the P5+1 group, which took place on the last day of the talks, did not take long. The general course of the negotiations clearly proved that the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States have evidently turned into the main negotiating parties. As a result, other countries taking part in nuclear talks have either delegated their responsibilities to the American team, or the outcome of the negotiations is no more important to them and they are ready to accept any outcome that might be worked out by Iran and the United States. This is true unless one of those countries, like France – which tried to scuttle the entire Geneva talks – starts singing a different tune, or adopts a different position; a possibility which in view of the current course of the negotiations is almost out of the question.

Negotiations among Iran, the United States and the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy have clearly shown that both Iran and the American side are trying to find a way out of this 12-year challenge. [Iran's President] Dr. [Hassan] Rouhani had put the resolution of the nuclear case on top of his election campaign promises and there is no doubt that he will take advantage of all available capacities to this effect. On the other hand, the government of [the US President Barack] Obama, which has been facing setbacks with regard to certain international issues, is now determined to take advantage of these negotiations and appear successful in nuclear talks with Iran in order to show it off as a positive credit on the track records of an otherwise failing US president. In addition, the US midterm elections will be held in coming weeks – on November 4 – whose results can potentially threaten the majority that Obama’s Democrat Party is currently swaying at the US Senate and cause him more troubles in what remains of his second term in office. The content of the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group show that differences between the two sides can be divided into major and minor differences. Major differences which have created the main gap between the two negotiating sides are about the scope of the Islamic Republic of Iran's nuclear activities, the number of active centrifuges in Iran as well as the issue of removing unjust sanctions that the Western sides have imposed on the Islamic Republic.

The issue of [Iran's heavy water reactor in the central city of] Arak and [the uranium enrichment facility in] Fordow and other issues cannot be put in this category of differences. Of course, it is possible that when the two sides get down to formulating a comprehensive agreement and focus on details, these issues may appear challenging. The United States has apparently come up with a new proposal, which has been promoted by Western media, although some officials on the two sides of the negotiating table have raised questions about those reports. Now, one must wait and see to what extent Washington’s new proposal will be able to meet the nuclear rights of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The issue of sanctions and the list that the Americans have reportedly prepared for the removal of sanctions after a final agreement is reached, should be also made clear. Iran has rightfully called for the removal of all sanctions and has put due emphasis on the need for any agreement to be “mutually beneficial.” One of the most important points about these talks was that both sides have expressed satisfaction and optimism about the talks. This shows that the latest round of nuclear negotiations have been relatively successful unless such expression of optimism is aimed at blaming the other side for possible failure of the negotiations in case they do not succeed to reach a final comprehensive deal. The declaration of readiness by the Canadian and Australian companies to get active in Iran as well as a meeting of European economic activists in London and remarks by German officials are all indicative of their optimism toward the negotiations. The body of available information shows that both sides have been able to create a totally different atmosphere during their latest talks as compared to previous negotiations. As a result, signals sent by them show that the general direction toward which the negotiations are moving is one of agreement. Of course, nobody can build their entire judgment merely on what the media report.

A group of Iranian experts is supposed to continue their negotiations next week with their counterparts representing the member states of the P5+1 group. Following their talks and in early November, the Iranian foreign minister, the US secretary of state, and Ms. Ashton will follow up on their high-level talks. When they start their talks, it would be 10 days before the expiration of the November 24 deadline, which has been set for achieving a comprehensive agreement by the two sides. Whether they would be able to clinch an agreement before the deadline or not, or they would go for further “extension” of negotiations, would depend on the political will of the opposite parties to Iran, especially the United States. To pave the way for such an agreement, the US negotiating team should appear serious in negotiations and while respecting the rights of the Iranian nation, give up its excessive demands. Up to the present time, Iranian officials have been steering the negotiations with a high sense of responsibility and adequate resilience. At the same time, they have also proven that they will not retreat even an iota from Iran's legal nuclear rights, which are the product of efforts made by Iranian nuclear scientists over the past few decades.

Key Words: Nuclear Talks, Agreement, Extension, Catherine Ashton, Mohammad Javad Zarif, John Kerry, P5+1 Group, United States, Iran, Hassan Rouhani, Uranium Enrichment, Resilience, Asefi

Source: Shargh Daily
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

*Photo Credit: Mehr News Agency