The historic nuclear deal with Iran was blocked by the French who insisted that Iran should freeze and stop all construction of their Arak nuclear power plant. Why is France insisting on this issue when major powers, including the U.S., have agreed that Arak timetable is not so urgent that it couldn’t be dealt with in the next 6 months ? Experts question whether Arak plant should have become a deal-breaker.“Arak is not supposed to come on line until after the middle of next year, so it’s not so urgent that it couldn’t be dealt with in the next six months,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, a non-proliferation specialist at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
For the past several years, both France and Israel have been urging the international community to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambition. Yet, France blocks a deal with Iran, and Netanyahu who has been banging the drum of war against Iran since 1995, now asks “What’s the rush?
Two day talks between Iran and P5+1 group ended in Geneva. Iranians put forward a proposal to allow intrusive IAEA inspection in accordance to the Additional Protocols that Iran had agreed in 2004-2005, but never ratified. For the first time, Iran has publicly agreed to certain limitations on its nuclear program, although specific details were not disclosed. Western officials described the discussions as “substantive” and “forward-looking.” Another first-time event was a joint press release by Zarif and Ashton. Both officials emphasized positive steps, expressed their satisfaction with the talks. Representatives from the two sides are to meet again in Geneva for talks on Nov. 7 and 8.
Compared to previous negotiations between Saeed Jalili and Ashton, this time the atmosphere was clearly very different. After May 2013 round of negotiations, participants described their discussions as “fruitful,” and “useful.” In contrast, nuclear negotiations between Zarif and Ashton were described as “substantive.” According to one expert, “a key challenge will be to reach agreement on an interim measure that balances the P5-plus-1 desire to halt advances in Iran’s nuclear program with Iran’s desire for early sanctions relief.”
Iran and the P5+1 group ( US, UK, France, Russia, China +Germany) hold their first nuclear talks with the government of Hassan Rouhani. Expectations have been very high due to several months of positive signals exchanged between the two countries ending with a high-level telephone conversation between Obama and Rouhani after 34 years. Iran’s Foreign Minister opened the talk with a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Closing an Unnecessary Crisis – Opening New Horizons.” Despite a heavy press and media contingent on the scene, not much is being reported about the details of their discussions. But one thing is certain: The atmosphere has changed significantly from previous round of negotiations when the Iranian delegates were giving sermons and lectures, instead of addressing the issues of concerns. The stakes for both governments cannot be underestimated, but one thing that is favoring the negotiations is the shutdown of U.S. government that has taken the attention of senators and congressmen away from these negotiations, no one is issuing critical statements, or threats to put more sanctions on Iran.
According to an article in Tuesday’s Guardian, and the Wall Street Journal, Iran is willing to accept intrusive inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities ( outlined in the document known as the Additional Protocols without officially acknowledging its acceptance of the document), in return, Iranians expect sanctions relief and breathing room for their economy. The Iranian foreign minister & lead negotiator, Javad Zarif, posted a message on his Facebook account saying the Geneva talks were “the start of a difficult and relatively time-consuming way forward”. He said: “I am hopeful that by Wednesday we can reach agreement on a road map to find a path towards resolution. But even with the goodwill of the other side, to reach agreement on details and start implementation will probably require another meeting at ministerial level.” According to the Guardian, ” Iran is also prepared to negotiate on the number of centrifuges it uses to make 3.5% enriched uranium, suitable for fuel for nuclear power stations, and on how much each centrifuge makes.”
All of this still could fall short of the demands by US and Europeans for closing of the facility at Fordow, and scaling down of operations at Arak nuclear power plant. Yet, Iranian change of tone and willingness to address the concerns of the P5+1 group is clearly a step forward in the diplomatic dance between Iran and P5+1.