Tough Choices Crucial to End Nuclear Dispute

Tough Choices Crucial to End Nuclear Dispute Tough Choices Crucial to End Nuclear Dispute

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the parties to the international diplomacy over Tehran's nuclear program should have the required political will to make "tough choices" if they seek a final deal to resolve the 12-year dispute over Iran's nuclear work.       

The chief nuclear negotiator made the remarks in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Thursday, one day after he and his US counterpart John Kerry wrapped up three days of nuclear talks in the Swiss city of Montreux.

In response to a question about the imminence of a deal, he said, "Well it can be, if there is the political will on all sides to make the decisions that need to be made. We have made some progress. There are issues left to be decided. So we will have to work very, very hard for the next few weeks."

Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) are set to work out the basic outline of a long-term settlement to the nuclear issue until the end of this month ahead of a June 30 deadline for a final deal.     

Zarif also said, "The object of this exercise is to ensure that Iran's nuclear program will always remain peaceful and to remove all the restrictions that have been imposed on Iran, in our view unjustifiably. That is why we believe that we can in fact reach an agreement, if there is the necessary political will to make the tough choices.

"And everybody has to make tough choices. We have made the choice to engage in negotiations, although we believe that this entire exercise was unnecessary, this was a manufactured crisis… So we have come to the negotiating table, we have shown the political will to resolve this issue. I believe the other side needs to exercise the same political will, the same resolve, make the same tough choices, that sanctions and an agreement don't go together.

"You can either have sanctions or continue to seek that path of confrontation, or try to resolve this issue through negotiations and through an agreement. I believe we are very close to the latter, but if people try to choose the former, that is their prerogative, but that's the wrong decision that they'll be making."

***Specific Limitations

Asked whether a ten year moratorium on nuclear activity, as demanded by US President Barack Obama, is acceptable to Iran, the senior diplomat said, "Well it depends on how you define it.

"We have been talking about accepting, by Iran, voluntarily certain limitations…We have accepted, and if we have an agreement, we will accept, certain limitations for a certain period of time, but I'm not prepared to negotiate on the air, as you said, the length of time or what are these limitations that we would be voluntarily accepting."

Obama told Reuters last Monday that Iran should commit to a verifiable freeze of at least 10 years on sensitive nuclear activity for a landmark nuclear deal to be reached between Tehran and the six major powers.

***Global Threat

On Iran's involvement in the campaign against the so-called Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in Iraq, the foreign minister said, "We do not have forces on the ground in Iraq. We have always had advisors helping the Iraqi government and the Iraqi army.

"We were the first to come to the assistance of the Iraqis, both in Baghdad as well as in Irbil, when the ISIS (another acronym for IS standing for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) started moving in in massive numbers last summer. So we've been there, we've been assisting the Iraqi people, everybody knows that without our assistance, things would have been different in Iraq."

He also said, "In spite of the short-sighted attempts in the past, now everybody has come to the conclusion that these extremist forces are a threat to everybody. They cannot be contained in Syria or in Iraq, or in only several countries in this region. This is a global threat.

"You see the implications in Europe, you see the fact that they are recruiting from Europe. So this is a global problem, it requires global cooperation and global work."

***Domestic Politics

On the impact of domestic politics and economic pressure on the nuclear talks, Zarif said, "President (Hassan) Rouhani and I have never played domestic politics on this. Actually this is not about national politics. This is about resolving an issue through diplomatic means that has been preventing tranquility and cooperation in our region for the past 15 years."

He added, "We have shown that in spite of sanctions and in spite of external pressure, we have been able to move forward, we have brought the inflation down, we have increased the growth… And we believe that we will build the necessary consensus.

"Iran is not a monolithic society, we have different voices, different views, different perceptions of what is happening inside Iran and in the world, and that is healthy. We welcome the possibility of engaging in a debate, domestic debate as well as regional and global debate, on what is the best future for our country and for the region."