Iran, 6 Powers Reach Milestone Nuclear Deal

Iran, 6 Powers Reach  Milestone Nuclear Deal   Iran, 6 Powers Reach  Milestone Nuclear Deal

Iran and the major powers announced on Thursday that they reached a landmark understanding on the outline of a final nuclear deal aiming to resolve the 12-year dispute over Tehran's nuclear work.

The announcement by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif came after eight days of marathon talks between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permamant members of the UN Security Council, namely the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China, plus Germany) in the Swiss city of Lausanne to work out the basic framework of a final nuclear accord, whose details are to be finalized by the June 30 deadline.

The joint statement by Zarif and Mogherini, who coordinates the nuclear negotiations on behalf of the P5+1, said Iran and the six powers gathered in the Swiss city to find solutions toward reaching a comprehensive resolution that will ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities and the lifting of all sanctions, according to the text of the statement posted on the website of the European External Action Service.

"Today, we have taken a decisive step: we have reached solutions on key parameters of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The political determination, the good will and the hard work of all parties made it possible," the statement said, adding that the understanding was "a crucial decision laying the agreed basis for the final text of the JCPOA."

On the terms of a final pact, the statement said, "As Iran pursues a peaceful nuclear program, Iran's enrichment capacity, enrichment level and stockpile will be limited for specified durations, and there will be no other enrichment facility than Natanz. Iran's research and development on centrifuges will be carried out on a scope and schedule that has been mutually agreed."

On the fate of the underground Fordo nuclear site, the statement said it will be converted from a uranium enrichment facility into "a nuclear, physics and technology centre. International collaboration will be encouraged in agreed areas of research. There will not be any fissile material at Fordo."

Pointing to the Arak heavy water reactor, which has been a major sticking point in the talks, the statement said, "An international joint venture will assist Iran in redesigning and rebuilding a modernized heavy water research reactor in Arak that will not produce weapons grade plutonium. There will be no reprocessing and the spent fuel will be exported."

In addition, it said, "A set of measures have been agreed to monitor the provisions of the JCPOA including… provisional application of the Additional Protocol. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be permitted the use of modern technologies and will have enhanced access through agreed procedures."

With regard to the key issue of sanctions, the announcement said, "The EU will terminate the implementation of all nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions and the US will cease the application of all nuclear-related secondary economic and financial sanctions, simultaneously with the IAEA-verified implementation by Iran of its key nuclear commitments."

It was also agreed that a new UN Security Council resolution would endorse the prospective nuclear deal terminating "all previous nuclear-related resolutions" and incorporating "certain restrictive measures for a mutually agreed period of time".

The statement concluded by saying that the negotiating partners "will now work to write the text of a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action including its technical details in the coming weeks and months at the political and experts levels. We are committed to complete our efforts by June 30th."

In a press conference after reading out the joint statement with Mogherini, Zarif said the parties arrived at solutions to key issues, but they should continue discussions to resolve the remaining differences on some points.

"We need to hold negotiations on some areas over the next three months and then we can conclude an agreement. That's why there are some vague and general points in the text, but we agreed on key issues," IRNA quoted the chief nuclear negotiator as saying.

He also said, "It is natural that the parties to the negotiations will give their accounts of what happened based on their domestic needs, but we will make serious and courageous efforts based on what the Supreme Leader called the heroic leniency over the next three months to reach a final agreement."

In a separate press conference, US Secretary of State John Kerry said, "Today we have reached a critical milestone in that quest (for the diplomatic settlement of Iran's nuclear dispute). We, our P5+1, EU partners, and Iran have arrived at a consensus on the key parameters of an arrangement."

 Historic Understanding

US President Barack Obama heralded the framework nuclear understanding with Iran as a "historic" agreement and warned the US Congress Thursday against taking action that could upend work toward a final deal, the Associated Press reported.

"The issues at stake here are bigger than politics," Obama said during remarks in the White House Rose Garden. "These are matters of war and peace, and they should be evaluated based on the facts."

The US president called the agreement "a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives."

Obama has invested significant political capital in the nuclear negotiations. One of Obama's toughest challenges will be convincing lawmakers to hold off on legislation that would authorize new sanctions on Iran. He warned anew that approving new sanctions in the midst of the delicate diplomacy could scuttle the talks.

"It's the United States that will be blamed for the failure of international diplomacy," he warned.

The United States' negotiating partners in Europe strongly backed the result. French President Francois Hollande, which had pushed the US for a tougher stance, endorsed the agreement while warning that "sanctions lifted can be re-established if the agreement is not applied," the AP reported.

According to Reuters, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Hollande welcomed the framework agreed on Iran's nuclear work but said there was work to do before there could be an acceptable deal.

"This is a stage agreement that includes some incontestable positive developments but there is still work to do," Fabius said on France 2 television.

In a statement, Hollande said, "France will be watchful, as it always is in step with its partners, to ensure that a credible, verifiable agreement be established under which the international community can be sure Iran will not be in a position to have access to nuclear arms."

Iran denies its nuclear program may have any military objectives, saying the work is solely for peaceful purposes including generating electricity.  

The British government said the talks had been "extremely tough" and the fine detail of an eventual accord would be very important.

"This is well beyond what many of us thought possible even 18 months ago and a good basis for what I believe could be a very good deal. But there is still more work to do," British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement, Reuters reported.

 Decisive Step

Germany’s foreign minister said the preliminary understanding reached on Thursday represented a “big, decisive step forward” that could lead to an easing of tensions across the Middle East if a final deal was clinched over the coming months.

“It is too early to celebrate. Nevertheless, with the framework agreement we have overcome obstacles that stood in the way of a deal for a decade,” Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement.

“If a final agreement is achieved, it could in my view not only pave the way for a solution to the Iran conflict, but it would be the first and only conflict in the Middle East where we will have achieved a deescalation. It could therefore provide hope for an easing of tensions in the region and between Iran and Arab states,” Steinmeier added.  In addition, Russia said the agreement would have a positive impact on the security situation in the Middle East, with Iran be able to take more active part in solving problems and conflicts.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday welcomed the initial agreement between Iran and world powers, expressing hope that Tehran would go further by the deadline for a final deal at the end of June.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said a comprehensive nuclear deal between Iran and world powers by June 30 could “enable all countries to cooperate urgently to deal with the many serious security challenges they face.”

In a statement on Thursday, Ban congratulated the sides on their framework agreement that clears the way for talks on a future comprehensive nuclear settlement.

Meanwhile, US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner claimed the framework agreement is an “alarming departure” from Obama’s initial goals. Boehner did not outline how the deal departed from initial negotiating goals. But he said the US Congress must fully review the deal before any sanctions on Iran are lifted.

“In the weeks ahead, Republicans and Democrats in Congress will continue to press this administration on the details of these parameters and the tough questions that remain unanswered,” he said.