Iran and the six global powers are set to commence expert-level nuclear talks on Wednesday, bolstered by an affirmation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Tehran is abiding by its obligations spelled out in an earlier nuclear deal.
Talks will be held in Vienna on the sidelines of an on-going meeting of the IAEA board of governors.
Iran and the sextet - the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany- are holding a flurry of meetings to fulfil a six-month Joint Plan of Action (JPA), which they had signed in Geneva in November 2013. During this period, Iran is obliged to undertake a series of transparent and verifiable confidence building steps, under the supervision of the IAEA, which would result in limited sanctions relief amounting to $4.2 billion.
All sanctions against Iran would be lifted if the dialogue, which can be extended by another six months, yields a comprehensive nuclear deal.
The momentum of the three-day talks in the Austrian capital will be maintained as political directors from Iran and its interlocutors meet again on March17. Iran's Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif and
Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, headed talks on February 20 in Vienna, where, Iranian officials said, an understanding had been reached on a framework for comprehensive negotiations, leading to a final agreement.
Wednesday's talks have been preceded by an acknowledgement by Yukiya Amano, the IAEA head that Iran has so far stood by its commitments made under the November JPA agreement.
"As of today, measures agreed under the Joint Plan of Action are being implemented as planned," said Mr. Amano on Monday, in an address to the IAEA's 35-nation board.
Under the JPA, Iran has to halt production of uranium enriched up to 20 per cent level and dilute a part of its existing inventory, in order to prevent further enrichment of this material to a 90 per cent bomb-grade threshold. Mr. Amano said that this process "has reached the halfway mark".
In return for its compliance, Iran is in eight tranches, getting access to its $4.2 billion of oil revenues that have been frozen in foreign banks. On February 1, Japan made a payment of $ 550 million.
Reuters quoted banking sources as saying that South Korea will be making two payments in March, amounting to $ 1 billion.