Reaching a settlement with Iran on its nuclear program is apparently harder than anticipated by Western leaders. As the deadline for reaching at least a provisional agreement is only two days away, leaders attending the meeting cancelled their travel plans, while others still hope negotiations will fail.
US Secretary of State John Kerry had to return to the United States on Sunday, but chose to remain in Switzerland instead, hoping he will help push a deal through. The foreign ministers of France and Germany followed his example, and together with Iran’s representatives they expect to reach a framework agreement in the next few days. Anything they agree upon now would become the basis for the final settlement estimated to be signed in June.
John Kerry’s spokeswoman told reporters that the US Secretary of State will no longer be able to attend a commemorative ceremony honoring his mentor, the late Senator Edward Kennedy. “Given the ongoing nuclear negotiations in Switzerland, the secretary regrets he will not be able to share this special time with them in person,” the press release said.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Laurent Fabius, the German and French foreign ministers, were planning to go together on a diplomatic visit to Kazahstan, but had to cancel their plans as a result of prolonged negotiations. “We’re hopeful, but there is still a lot of work to be done,” Fabius described the situation on Sunday.
However, not everyone shared his hopes, as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the Western leaders for laying the groundwork of a nightmare for Israel. “This deal, as it appears to be emerging, bears out all of our fears, and even more than that,” Netanyahu warned his fellow ministers back in Jerusalem.
Israel was excluded from the Lausanne talks, where Russia, China and Britain were invited along US, France and Germany and, of course, Iran. Israel is believed to be the only nuclear power in the Middle East, and its government has long argued that if any other country in the region gains nuclear military capabilities it would bring an end to any hopes for peace. Jerusalem argues no other Middle East government is responsible enough to be trusted with holding such a powerful arsenal.
Western leaders want to make sure they can trust Iran
Leaders of the six world powers who are having talks with Iran officials in Lausanne mostly agree with the Israelis on the last matter, but they are also willing to trust Tehran to respect its commitment to use nuclear technology only in civilian purposes. Talks started pretty promisingly a few days ago, and few expected negotiations will drag along this much.
Things became more problematic as Iran made it clear that any agreement on its uranium enrichment research program has to be linked with the removal of economic sanctions against the country. “In negotiations, both sides must show flexibility,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif explained his stance. “We have, and are ready to make a good deal for all. We await our counterparts’ readiness.”
Security experts believe US could allow Iran to keep most of its uranium research facilities, on the condition that Tehran will allow regular inspections to make sure no work towards building the fissile core of a nuclear weapon is being done. It’s the details that matter, since Iranian officials are willing to sign such an agreement, but on lesser terms.
Another detail that keeps dividing the members of the conference is the duration of the agreement. Although no definitive document will be signed until June 30, diplomats hoped a provisory compromise could be reached in Switzerland.
The six-power group suggested that Iran be inspected for at least 10 years. What bothers Tehran the most is not the time frame itself, but how it will be connected to the full lifting of the economic sanctions. Iranian officials hoped for at least a partial cancellation of penalties prior to the signing of an agreement, while the West insists Iran first must prove its good intentions, and then they’ll see.
Image Source: Iran Daily
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