Final Deal Hinges on Lifting Sanctions

Final Deal Hinges on  Lifting SanctionsFinal Deal Hinges on  Lifting Sanctions

A senior nuclear negotiator said the major powers engaged in nuclear talks with Iran should agree to lift all sanctions so that a final settlement to the long-running nuclear dispute can be achieved.   

"Our principle position is that all sanctions be lifted at once," Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told Press TV on Thursday after the end of nuclear talks between political directors and deputy foreign ministers of Iran and the P5+1 (the five permamant members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) in the Swiss city of Montreux.

The meetings were preceded by three days of negotiations between Iranian and US delegations, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry, to narrow differences impeding efforts to conclude a long-term deal.

Araqchi stressed that an agreement could be reached "only if sanctions are lifted."

Noting that the lifting of the sanctions is a "very important aspect" in the negotiations, he said, "No sanctions should remain in place."

The diplomat called on the major powers to decide between achieving a "deal" and continuing to "pressure" Iran through sanctions.

He said Iran and the powers are doing their best to reach a sort of "understanding" by the end of the month, noting that "major issues" still remain to be resolved despite some progress in the talks.   

Iran and the six major powers (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany) are in talks to work out the basic framework of an accord until the end of this month and finalize details by the June 30 deadline for a final deal. The nuclear talks are scheduled to resume on March 15 at a venue to be decided.

***China Hopeful

Meanwhile, China's representative at talks on Iran's nuclear program said on Thursday he saw hope that a deal would be done, Reuters reported.

"We are at the final stage of our efforts for a comprehensive agreement," Wang Qun, director general of the arms control department of China's Foreign Ministry, told reporters.

"We do think that it's a last stage and hopefully we could reach an agreement."

"Basically there are two categories of issues," Wang said in English. "One is how to see the non-proliferation concern is removed and secondly is to see the Iranian rights for peaceful uses (of nuclear technology) is ensured."

Iran denies its nuclear activities may have any military objectives, saying the work is solely for peaceful applications, such as power generation.

***Better Understanding

In a statement released after the Montreux talks, the European Union said the discussions helped the negotiating parties to reach a "better understanding".  

"The E3/EU+3 (the six powers) political directors and Iran met on 5 March in Montreux for a one-day meeting in continuation of their ongoing diplomatic efforts to find a comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear issue," the statement said.

"The meetings were constructive and useful. Some progress was made and a better understanding on some of the issues emerged. E3/EU+3 and Iran will continue to work on the remaining gaps and will meet again very soon," it added.

***Some Progress

The US secretary of state said "some progress" was made in the Montreux talks, but there are still major differences that should be resolved before a deal can be struck.  

"From the beginning, these negotiations have been tough and intense, and they remain so. And we've made some progress from where we were, but there are still significant gaps and important choices that need to be made," Kerry told reporters on Wednesday after more than 10 hours of talks with Zarif in three days, according to a transcript of his remarks posted on the website of the US Department of State.

He also said, "The purpose of these negotiations is not to get any deal; it's to get the right deal, one that can withstand scrutiny – the scrutiny of experts on nuclear affairs all around the world, the scrutiny of other governments, the scrutiny of people, the scrutiny of the Congress of the United States, people in America, and the scrutiny of countries in the region that are affected by it. And so we know that. We approach these negotiations with a full understanding of the test that will be applied to this and of the expectations that exist."

In addition he said, "We also want an agreement that is sustainable over time, and particularly that achieves the singular goal of proving that Iran's nuclear program is and will remain peaceful. We aren't going to be distracted by external factors or politics."

***Nuclear Work Unaffected

Elsewhere, Kerry highlighted the importance of the interim nuclear deal between Iran and the six powers, emphasizing that sanctions have not been able to block the progress of Iran's nuclear work.

"We also know that the international sanctions, which many want to simply hang their hats on – they may have gotten Iran to the table, but to date they haven't stopped Iran from advancing its nuclear program. In fact, the first and only thing that had stopped their program from progressing in almost a decade was the Joint Plan of Action that we negotiated and we reached in November of 2013, and that has been adhered to in every single respect since then."

Pointing to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent speech to the US Congress on Iran's nuclear talks, the top US diplomat said, "And most importantly, as President Obama said yesterday, we know that no one has presented a more viable, lasting alternative for how you actually prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. So folks, simply demanding that Iran capitulate is not a plan, and nor would any of our P5+1 partners support us in that position."