Muscat Talks decisive

Muscat Talks decisive
Muscat Talks decisive

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi says Oman has played a "positive" role in negotiations between Iran and world powers and expressed optimism that the nuclear talks in Muscat will lead to a "breakthrough".

 Araqchi said on Saturday the talks in Oman are "decisive" and "significant", adding, "A nuclear agreement could benefit both negotiating parties and the whole region, a point that is acknowledged by all," ISNA reported.

"Nobody wants a return to the situation before the Geneva agreement because that would be a dangerous scenario."

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is scheduled to meet with his US counterpart John Kerry in Oman today and tomorrow.  Catherine Ashton, who leads the nuclear negotiations with Iran on behalf of the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) will also join them.

Iran and its negotiating partners are now engaged in talks to build on the interim accord they reached in Geneva last November to work out a long-term settlement to the nuclear dispute by a November 24 target date.

The Geneva deal took effect on January 20 and was to expire six months later. However, Iran and the major powers agreed in July to extend their talks on a comprehensive agreement and continue implementing the interim accord four for more months as they remained divided on a number of key issues.

  Ashton Meets P5+1 Officials

Senior foreign ministry officials from the P5+1 held coordination consultations in the Austrian capital Vienna on Friday.  Ashton, former European Union foreign policy chief, chaired the meeting which was held in the absence of Iranian officials. Officials from France, Britain, the United States, Russia, China and Germany attended the meeting.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told the media after the one-day meeting in Vienna that Russia’s agreement with Iran on the removal of nuclear material may become part of a larger deal Iran may conclude with the major powers.

Ryabkov said, "In order to agree a potential pattern for the removal of Iran’s nuclear material to Russia for the manufacture of nuclear fuel for the Bushehr reactor, all parameters of the overall deal must be coordinated first."

"Our partners know there is such an opportunity. We shall consider everything related to it only after general arrangements have been achieved," Russian news agency TASS quoted him as saying.

Ryabkov was referring to reports first appeared on the New York Times claiming, "Tehran has agreed to ship parts of its stockpile of uranium to Russia if a final agreement is reached by November 24."

The paper said the issue was "potentially a major breakthrough in talks that have until now been deadlocked.

"Under the proposed agreement, the Russians would convert the uranium into specialized fuel rods for the Bushehr nuclear power plant, Iran’s only commercial reactor."

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marzieh Afkham later denied the report.                                                                   

  Lavrov Positive on Talks  

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow and Washington are determined to do their best to reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program before November 24.

“We have a mutual disposition, with the Americans as well, to do everything possible in order to meet this deadline,” Lavrov said after his meeting with Kerry on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing, RIA Novosti reported on Saturday.

  Timeline for Lifting Sanctions  

Former diplomat Hossein Mousavian also said, “If Iran fulfills its obligations and the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms that, there will be no guarantee the US Congress agrees to roll back anti-Iran sanctions; that’s why Iran should not sign an agreement that does not envisage the timeline for lifting the sanctions,” the Tasnim News Agency quoted him as saying.

Mousavian made the remarks in a debate with Robert Einhorn, a former State Department nonproliferation adviser who was on the US negotiating team until last year. The debate was held at the International Relations Institute in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  

The mechanism of lifting sanctions has been a sticking point between Iran and the P5+1. Iran says all sanctions must be lifted simultaneously once the parties reached a comprehensive deal; however, the major powers have proposed a gradual relaxing of the embargoes on Iran until the time that Tehran can assure that “its nuclear program is solely peaceful.”

Mousavian, a former top nuclear negotiator (2003-2005) who is now a research scholar at Princeton University in the United States, also said the major powers’ demands from Iran go far beyond the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and are the main reason why the negotiations have become lengthy.

“Only when such demands are placed within the framework of the NPT, striking a final agreement by November 24 could be possible.”