BRUSSELS, January 13. /ITAR-TASS/. The foreign ministers of the European Union may lift some of the economic sanctions on Iran at their meeting in Brussels on January 20, following progress at the talks on the Iranian nuclear programme reached late last year, an official at the press service of Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said on Monday, January 13.
Earlier in the day, Ashton’s Spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said the EU would keep its word to ease economic sanctions against Iran.
The agreement reached by and between Iran and the P5+1 (five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany) in Geneva last year may become effective on January 20, the IRNA news agency reported earlier this month.
Director General for Political and International Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hamid Baeedi-nejad, who leads the Iranian delegation to the expert-level negotiations, said that after consultations Iranian and P5+1 experts had found this date suitable for starting the implementation of the plan approved in Geneva in November 2013.
However this date has yet to be approved by the political leaders of all sides concerned.
A new round of technical consultations between Iran and the P5+1 at the level of experts ended in Geneva on Tuesday, December 31, 2013. A source involved in the negotiating process told ITAR-TASS that “substantial progress” had been achieved.
The main purpose of the consultations was to work out concrete steps to implement the Joint Plan of Action, which was agreed at the ministerial level in Geneva in late November 2013.
After many days of intensive discussions, the sides agreed the joint action plan in November. According to the plan, which spans a period of six months, Tehran pledged not to enrich uranium above a 5 percent concentration, not to continue fuel enrichment operations at Natanz, Fordo and Arak, and not to create new enrichment facilities.
Western countries, in turn, agreed to ease economic sanctions on Iran.
The deal was called the first step to be followed by a comprehensive agreement, which, on the one hand, should resolve the international community’s concerns about the Iranian nuclear programme and, on the other hand, remove economic sanctions that slow down Iran’s economic development.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told the IRNA news agency that Tehran was taking the consultations in Geneva very seriously. “We must understand that the subject of negotiations is a complex issue that can be resolved only through close cooperation between the parties,” he said.
The minister expressed hope that the other side would continue the dialogue with Iran and would honour its obligations.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the deal reached in Geneva showed that world powers had recognised Tehran’s “nuclear rights” and noted that Iran was ready to start talks on a comprehensive nuclear agreement immediately.
“Constructive engagement, tireless efforts by negotiating teams are to open new horizons,” Rouhani said shortly after the announcement.
After the deal was signed, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi wrote on Twitter that Iran’s enrichment rights had been recognised in the negotiations.
U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the nuclear deal with Iran and said the agreement had “halted” and “rolled back” Iran’s nuclear programme to ensure it remained peaceful.
“While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal. For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the programme will be rolled back,” Obama said.
He said that the possibility of an agreement had opened up after the U.S. and the U.N. imposed “unprecedented sanctions on the Iranian government.”
Obama said that the most important sanctions against Iran would remain in force and that the concessions given to Tehran could easily be retracted.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, however, that Moscow would continue to convince its partners that further pressure or sanctions against Iran would only lead to a deadlock, and stressed that “the threat of force should be ruled out completely”.
He said Russia was “determined, and we are in full agreement with the United States, Europe and China on this within the P5+1, to bring the process to the end and resolve all concerns the international community has about the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programme.”
“We are going to do this in a manner that will strengthen stability, trust and security in the region for all states, including Israel,” he added.
“Our European partners and we are determined to solve this task. There are certain views that are based on pessimistic prospects for the final settlement. But no such pessimism can be seen in our relations with the EU. I hope that we will work together with our American partners and certainly with Iranians in order to resolve this acute and very serious problem,” Lavrov said.
He stressed that full implementation of the agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme will resolve all of the international community’s concerns about its peaceful nature.
“Full implementation of the agreements reached in Geneva -- and they have yet to be implemented, even though everyone agreed that one year would be enough to implement them - will eliminate the reason that is used to substantiate the creation of the European segment of the U.S. global missile defence system. We did not think this up. President Obama said it straightforwardly that if the Iranian nuclear threat were eliminated, the European missile defence system would no longer be needed. American experts are saying something different now though,” Lavrov said.
The minister called for unconditional compliance with the Geneva agreement on Iran. “It is important, and our European colleagues agree with us on this, to make no attempts to change the agreements or try to interpret these agreements broadly or narrowly, but to implement all the provisions of the Geneva document exactly as they are stated,” Lavrov said.
“Iran is freezing a considerable part of its nuclear programme. On the other hand, the unilateral sanctions the U.S. and the European Union imposed against Iran will be suspended and gradually lifted,” he added.
Lavrov noted that Russia recognised Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, including the right to enrich uranium to 20 percent under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“We are convinced that if our position were supported by all other parties to the talks with Tehran, we could hope for greater and better progress,” the minister said.
The P5+1 is a group of countries which in 2006 joined the diplomatic efforts with Iran in regard to its nuclear program. The term refers to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, namely the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France, and Germany.