Iran and the six global powers have commenced expert level talks on Monday to work out the details for launching the Geneva nuclear accord, amid threats by either side which, if enforced, could derail the ground-breaking deal.
The day long dialogue seeks to overcome a stumbling block, related to the interpretation of the November 24 Geneva accord. The Iranians are of the view that Joint Plan of Action (JPA) that was signed, does not ban Iran from developing a new generation of sophisticated centrifuges-spinning machines that are used for enriching uranium. The JPA states that, “Iran will continue its safeguarded R&D practices, including its current enrichment R&D practices, which are not designed for accumulation of the enriched uranium.” The West seems to interpret this language as a commitment by Iran not to expand the level and sophistication of its R&D work on centrifuges, analysts say.
But last week Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s Atomic Energy Chief, announced that Tehran was conducting research on a new generation of centrifuges. “A new generation of centrifuges is being built, but they should undergo all tests before mass production,” said the head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).
On Sunday, Iran’s nuclear negotiator, Seyed Abbas Araqchi sounded upbeat that the Geneva accord could be launched next month. Speaking to an academic gathering in Tehran, Mr. Araqchi said: “I guess if the expert-level talks in Geneva go on successfully, the implementation of the Geneva interim nuclear deal will take place later in January.” He added that Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and European Union (EU) foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, who steers diplomacy with Tehran on behalf of the six big powers, will hold regular negotiations over the next five months.
Under the Geneva accord, both sides are to work out a series of confidence building steps that would confirm that Iran was not in pursuit of atomic weapons, paving the way for a final deal.
Despite the optimism, Iran has joined battle with Washington, by pointing out that in pursuit of the outcome of an on-going parliamentary debate, Tehran would go-ahead with unprecedented level of enrichment, if fresh sanctions, threatened by the U.S. Senate, were imposed.
Mr. Araqchi pointed to a recent motion proposed by the country’s lawmakers that demanded that Iran should pursue enrichment to a 60 per cent level, if new sanctions were imposed. He warned that “60 percent
enrichment is the parliament’s idea, and we have to carry out whatever the parliament passes”. Under the Geneva accord, Iran has agreed to halt 20 per cent enrichment, as a gesture of its peaceful intentions, as an atomic bomb requires the use of uranium enriched beyond 90 per cent.
Iran’s Tasnim News Agency is quoting Seyed Mahdi Mousavinejad, a member of the parliament’s energy commission as saying that the motion supported by 200 law makers was a "gesture of support for the
country’s nuclear negotiators in talks with the world powers". He stressed that the “final approval of the motion will obligate the administration to… enrich uranium at the 60 percent purity level if the (Group) 5+1 imposes fresh sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran”.
Observers say that the threat of enrichment is a reflection of Iran’s insistence on reciprocity during its negotiations with the global sextet. It comes at a time when a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced a new legislation on December 19 that envisages a total embargo on Iran's oil exports over the next two years, and strangles Tehran's access to revenues held in foreign bank accounts. The Senate’s move follows the imposition of sanctions a week earlier by the Treasury Department on more than a dozen companies and individuals for evading American sanctions against Iran.