Iran, P5+1: ‘Good progress’ in nuclear deal talks

1st Jan 2014

Signs of progress have emerged from talks in Geneva aimed at hammering out the details of a nuclear deal with Iran. The interim plan to cap uranium enrichment could be in effect by January, Iranian state TV has said.

Expert teams at the P5+1 talks – comprised of Germany and the permanent UN Security Council members: the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France – gave few details following another round of discussions with Iranian negotiators on Tuesday. They had met behind closed doors for nearly 24-hours in Geneva to discuss the details of a six-month freeze on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the easing of international economic sanctions on Iran.

A member of Iran’s team told Iranian state television that Tehran planned on implementing the accord by the end of January.

“The two sides managed to reach an understanding on the implementation of the agreement and now, their views and interpretations are the same,” Iranian negotiator Hamid Baidinejad said.

While saying progress had been made, negotiators from the P5+1 did not confirm the January date. They said that they still needed to discuss the progress reached at the meetings with their respective governments.

The spokesperson of European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said delegates would be working “to finalize a common understanding of the implementation,” before the next round of talks resumed in the new year.

Officials from the United Kingdom’s foreign office and the United States’ state department echoed the sentiment.

November accord

Talks aimed at fine-tuning the November accord progressed slowly in December after  Washington levied further sanctions against a number of Iranian companies and individuals despite the breakthrough agreement. Iran walked out of a four-day conference in Geneva earlier in the month in protest of the move, which  the US contended did not breach the agreement.

Crippling Western sanctions and the election of a new, moderate Iranian president shifted the country’s foreign policy toward the West during 2013. In November, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani agreed to a six-month freeze on nuclear development in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions. Terms of the agreement, in particular the West’s oversight in Iran’s implementation have, become a sticking point in reaching a deal.

The current agreement is designed as a first step toward ensuring Iran does not acquire a nuclear arsenal. Under the interim plan, Iran has agreed to cap its uranium enrichment level to 5 percent – well below the 90 percent threshold level required to build a nuclear warhead. It has also agreed to “neutralize” its existing self-confirmed stockpile of 20 percent.

In return, Tehran gets a rollback of sanctions that it is expected might garner the Iranian economy some $7 billion (5.2 billion euros).

If the deal progresses as planned, the P5+1 and Iran will negotiate final-stage agreements.

Tehran has dismissed Western fears that it seeks to build nuclear weapons, instead contending it wants to use its nuclear program for generating electricity. However,  Israel remains adamantly opposed to easing pressure on Tehran without dismantling any nuclear development.

kms/se (AFP, Reuters)

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