Sanctions Must Go to Seal Nuclear Deal

Sanctions Must Go to Seal Nuclear Deal  Sanctions Must Go to Seal Nuclear Deal

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said a nuclear agreement could be reached this week if the United States and other western countries have sufficient political will and agree to lift sanctions on Tehran.

"Our negotiating partners, particularly the western countries and particularly the United States, must once and for all come to the understanding that sanctions and agreement don't go together," he told reporters in Geneva on Monday. "If they want an agreement, sanctions must go... We believe all sanctions must be lifted."  

He said Iran has demonstrated its political will by bringing its highest authorities to the nuclear talks with the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) and leaving "no stone unturned," Reuters reported.

Asked about his expectations for talks this week with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Zarif said things were advancing. "We have made some progress since last time and if there is the political will to accept that an agreement and sanctions cannot go together, then we can have an agreement this time."  

The objective of the negotiations is a deal that ensures Iran's nuclear program is exclusively peaceful and also ensures that all sanctions are lifted, Zarif said.

Asked if what the West sees as the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear activity had been discussed, Zarif said, "We talked about all the issues we were supposed to talk about." Iran denies its nuclear program may have any military objectives, saying the work is only for peaceful applications.

  Three-Way Talks

Iran, the United States and the European Union started a fresh round of nuclear talks in Montreux, Switzerland on Monday afternoon to narrow differences that have hindered the progress of broader international diplomacy over Iran's nuclear issue.

Deputy Foreign Ministers Abbas Araqchi and Majid Takht-Ravanchi led the Iranian negotiating team and the US and EU delegations were headed by US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and political director of the European Union's External Action Service Helga Schmid respectively. Kerry and Zarif were also expected to join the Montreux talks later in the day.  

Presidential aide Hossein Fereydoon, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Director Ali Akbar Salehi and US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz will be present at the talks, which will run at least for three days.  

Iran and the six major powers are also scheduled to hold a new round of talks at the level of political directors in the Swiss city on March 5 to work toward a final settlement to the 12-year dispute over Tehran's nuclear program. They have agreed to work out a comprehensive accord by the self-imposed June 30 deadline.  

  Political Football  

Meanwhile, Kerry pressed the case on Sunday for completing nuclear diplomacy with Iran despite Israeli opposition, saying the United States deserves the benefit of the doubt on getting a deal with Iran.

Two days ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to the US Congress, which is expected to be a scathing critique of the Obama administration's policy on Iran's nuclear program, Kerry delivered a stout defense of talks that are entering a critical phase with a key March 31 target date for the basic framework of a final deal fast approaching.

Kerry said he hoped Netanyahu's speech does not turn into "some great political football."

In an interview with the ABC program "This Week," Kerry said of the Iran negotiations, "It is better to do this by diplomacy than to have to do a strategy militarily which you would have to repeat over and over again and which everybody believes ought to be after you have exhausted all the diplomatic remedies."

Kerry said he could not promise that a deal can be reached, but said, "We are going to test whether or not diplomacy can prevent this weapon from being created."

"We have said again and again, no deal is better than a bad deal. We're not going to make a bad deal," he said.  

"Our hope is diplomacy can work," Kerry added. "... Given our success on the interim agreement (Iran and the major powers signed in Geneva in November 2013), I believe we deserve the benefit of the doubt to find out whether or not we can get a similarly good agreement with respect to the future."