Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1235, (26 February - 4 March 2015)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1235, (26 February - 4 March 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Towards agreement

The US and Iran are redoubling efforts to reach agreement in Geneva on Iran’s controversial nuclear programme, writes Camelia Entekhabifard from New York

Al-Ahram Weekly

One and only one agreement is what the Iranian and American nuclear negotiators are looking for at the current round of meetings in Geneva on Iran’s nuclear programme.

In a recent statement, the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that the agreement would need to be in the form of a single deal rather than the two steps previously mentioned by negotiators. The two steps would be political and then technical, but Khamenei has said that he wants to see a single comprehensive agreement.

For the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic, the two countries have a large number of senior officials on hand to find a peaceful solution to the ten-year controversy over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI), Ali Akbar Salehi, together with the brother of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who serves as a political advisor to the president, and US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz joined the talks in Geneva between 19 and 23 February.

The US and Iran redoubled their efforts to elevate the level of the talks and ready the path for an agreement before 24 March. Even if this is not a comprehensive settlement, it will at least be a framework to make the job easier for negotiators as the 1 July deadline approaches.

Amid the utmost secrecy, the talks in Geneva have gone smoothly and, according to a diplomat close to the negotiators, many details were discussed. An understanding in Geneva raises the possibility that a comprehensive deal may be reached in March rather than June.

Delegation members left Geneva on 23 February, with plans to return for further talks on Monday, two days ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to the US.

There is a strong possibility that a framework agreement could be agreed before 4 March, the day on which Netanyahu plans to address the US Congress to warn of the dangers of making a deal with Iran.

It seems that the parties at the talks now intend to return to their countries to mull over what has been discussed with a view to returning to Geneva next week to announce an agreement.

If Iran and the US succeed in coming to an agreement before the Israeli prime minister addresses Congress, whatever he says will have no affect on the talks or the parties.

The body language of the negotiators in Geneva has given rise to hopes that the parties could confirm the framework for a technical and political agreement by the first deadline on 24 March and even prevent the further sanctions that the US Congress has promised to implement by the end of March if a political agreement has not been reached.

Senior US officials told a gathering of reporters on Tuesday that the discussions had allowed negotiators to sharpen perceptions of some tough issues, making it easier to work towards their resolution.

One official, who asked to remain unnamed, told the Weekly that next Monday’s meeting will be too early to call for high-level meetings at the ministerial level of the P5+1 group, including the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany that are negotiating with Iran.

“Once we have nailed the agreement and have it ready we will be able to call them over to sign it, most likely not before mid-March,” the official said.

However, things could still change at the last minute, in spite of both sides’ hopes for finalising a deal. Khamenei in the past has shifted the agenda of the talks, or even put spokes in the wheels, simply because he has not felt ready for a deal with the United States.

It may be for this reason that Khamenei has asked the negotiators to make the deal a one-stop process, watching them work full speed in order to fulfil his request. What Khamenei says during the week-long break will be watched with interest.

The Americans now seem ready to come to an agreement. Whether or not this is equally true of Iran remains to be seen.

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