Saturday,16 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)
Saturday,16 December, 2017
Issue 1253, ( 2 - 8 July 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Still hopes of a deal

Diplomats at the negotiations between Iran and the Western powers over the country’s nuclear programme hope a final accord can be reached before the 9 July deadline, reports Camelia Entekhabifard in Vienna

Al-Ahram Weekly

While Iran missed the official deadline for talks on 30 June, no one in Vienna saw the date as particularly important since the important deadline is the one set by the US Congress on 9 July.

The timeframe for the talks has now stretched beyond the June deadline to July, and no one knows how many extra days the negotiators may need to wrap up the talks. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif left Vienna for Tehran on Sunday 28 June for consultations with the leadership and returned on Tuesday with another key negotiator, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran (AEOI).

Salehi’s presence speaks of Iran’s need to address some of the remaining technical issues causing disputes between the country and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). 

These issues, which earlier were not considered preconditions for reaching a deal with Iran, are again in the spotlight, and apparently some of the P5+1 group of countries negotiating with Iran (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) want them to be addressed before the deal is sealed.

Iran has refused to give access to its military sites as part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) additional protocol, and the president of Iran and the country’s supreme leader have both indicated that there will not be a deal if the international sanctions against the country are not lifted.

Sources at the talks indicate that they are in a delicate position, with key elements about inspections, verifications, and sanctions relief in question. The final text is reportedly riddled with blank spaces where the exact terms of the agreement still need to be worked out.

With zero remaining time for the negotiators, clearly no one is willing to leave Vienna with empty hands and all are clearly aware of the consequences of failure. Iran’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani, and his government who have staked their foreign policy on closing a nuclear deal have political and moral obligations before the Iranian people and it will be hard for the president to continue in office if the talks break apart.

An extension of the talks has not been agreed, and the only choice is to continue the talks for a few more days beyond the expired deadline no matter what will happen in the future.

The US negotiators must present a deal to congress by 9 July if a mandatory congressional review period before President Barack Obama can begin suspending sanctions is to be limited to 30 days. After 9 July, the review will last 60 days, according to a law passed recently by US legislators. Now the push for a possible deal is 8 July, the congress otherwise having twice as long to review any final agreement.

Time is not in favour of either Iran or the US, and both sides know that the 60 days given to the US Congress means that lawmakers have more time to jeopardise the deal by finding excuses in the details.

One diplomat in Vienna close to the negotiators said that the parties were taking lessons from the Lausanne Agreement. “The three-month gap between what they agreed in Lausanne has caused all these new disputes and different interpretations from the agreement,” he said.

After the Lausanne Framework Agreement on 2 April, the US published a fact sheet of the points agreed with the Iranians. This fact sheet caused trouble for the Iranian negotiators, whose opponents attacked them for “having lied” about the details agreed with the Western powers.

Three months later, supreme leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had had enough time to review the Framework Agreement, and he dislikes some details such as the inspections of Iran’s military sites, even managed inspections, and the timeframe for the removal of sanctions.

In his recent speeches, Khamenei has called these demands “unacceptable” for Iran.

Now it’s clear for all the parties that any extension rather than being helpful could be harmful and in order to avoid any further such experiences they are keen to finish the talks in Vienna.

The news agency AFP has reported that the Americans have proposed a mechanism meaning that not all Iran’s military sites, just the “suspicious” ones, would be inspected. “The entry point isn’t that we must be able to get into every military site, because the United States of America wouldn’t allow anybody to get into every military site, so that’s not appropriate,” an official told AFP.

If this new proposal was the reason that took Zarif to Tehran on Sunday to consult with the supreme leader, who has the final say, than now the chances of reaching a final agreement have increased with the presence in Vienna of Salehi.

Most diplomats in Vienna for the talks expressed their hopes that a final accord could be reached sooner than 9 July, but any expectation of a ceremonial signing is seen as too controversial at this point.

The current governments of Iran and the United States have to convince their internal opponents that the deal will not pave the way to normalising relations. The main goal is sealing a deal with or without a ceremony.

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