Iran and the six global powers have recommenced talks in Geneva, which could become a litmus test of Israel’s ability to undermine a nuclear deal, which was well within grasp when the two sides last met at the same venue earlier this month.
Catherine Ashton, the foreign policy chief of the European Union, the host of the talks, met senior officials of the sextet, comprising the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. She was later scheduled to meet Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian Foreign Minister, before entering into delegation-level talks, either on Wednesday or Thursday.
Israel vociferously opposes any deal with Iran, which would allow Tehran to enrich uranium, as well as pursue other activities that could make it capable of producing atomic bombs. On the contrary, Iran has made it explicit that it would not give up its right to enrichment under rules defined by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that it has signed. Advocates of the Iranian nuclear programme say that Iran must be allowed less the five per cent enrichment, which is necessary to fuel the country’s atomic power plants in the future.
On his way to Geneva for talks, Mr. Zarif accused Israel of continuing with its efforts to impede the emergence of an agreement between Iran and the global powers. “We have seen that statements coming out of Israel indicate that they are not interested in finding solutions [to the nuclear issue], they have been trying to push for problems,” said the Minister in Rome after meeting his Italian counterpart Emma Bonino on Tuesday.
As he spoke, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was preparing to set out for Moscow to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to tweak his position on Iran.
Ahead of Wednesday’s talks, incisive details have begun to emerge about the final hours of talks, which eventually collapsed in Geneva on November 10, falling short of a breakthrough by a wafer-thin margin. Voice of Russia is quoting Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, as saying that the deal would have gone through, but for the last minute changes that were introduced in the draft.
“This time, the P5+1 group (the six global powers) did not formulate any joint document, recalled the Russian top diplomat, during a recent press conference in Cairo. He added: “There was an American-proposed draft, which eventually received Iran's consent. We vigorously supported this draft. If this document had been supported by all [members of the P5+1], it would have already been adopted."
But, Mr. Lavrov pointed out that “amendments were made (at the) last moment”—a situation that may have forced the Iranians to seek more time to fully absorb the implications of the changes that had been made.
CNN quoted two senior officials of the U.S. administration as saying that possible deal would have obligated Iran to stop enrichment of nuclear fuel to 20 per cent purity. Iran would also have been asked to “render unusable” its existing stockpile of such fuel—implying that Tehran would not have been obliged to export these stocks to a third country, as has been demanded by rivals such as Israel. Besides, Iran would have been required not to “activate” its plutonium reactor in Arak, falling well short of the demand by France that all construction activity at the facility must be halted.
In Jerusalem, visiting French President, Francois Hollande demanded, during a Sunday press conference, that Iran must suspend construction of the heavy water reactor in Arak, halt uranium enrichment to 20 per cent and reduce its existing stockpile of enriched uranium.
As the countdown for the latest round of talks in Geneva began, U.S. President Barack Obama winded down hopes of an imminent breakthrough by telling invited senators in a closed door meeting that a deal with Iran will not necessarily be closed “this or next week”. He asked lawmakers not to impose fresh sanctions, and separately sought a six-month pause to test whether the new diplomatic outreach to Iran would yield results.