Deal would be dead if U.S. imposed new sanctions: Tehran

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has arrived in Tehran to discuss details of implementing the Geneva nuclear accord signed in November and ideas to shape next month’s proposed international conference on Syria. Itar-Tass has reported that the agreement reached between Iran and the six global powers — U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — would be one of the focal points of talks during the visit. Later on Wednesday, Mr. Lavrov advocated Iran’s participation in resolving the Syrian crisis.

The Geneva deal was premised on allowing Iran to enrich uranium only below five per cent purity in return for limited sanctions relief for a period of six months. Within this time, both sides are to work out the contours of a permanent agreement to ensure the peaceful orientation of the programme in tune with Tehran’s sanctions-free accommodation in the international economic mainstream.

Mr. Lavrov had earlier said intensive talks during the six months ahead would focus on the parameters of fuel production by Iran to run nuclear power stations, research reactors and others producing isotopes for medical and humanitarian purposes. Mr. Lavrov’s arrival coincides with expert-level talks that began on Monday in Vienna between Iran and the sextet to discuss the Geneva deal. AFP has reported that it is unlikely that the negotiators would agree on a specific date when Iran has to commence a six month freeze of parts of its nuclear energy programme.

As Mr. Lavrov engaged with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Tehran, both sides were aware that the survival of the landmark deal is far from certain. In Washington, John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, battled Congress to dissuade it from passing another set of stringent sanctions, which were likely to push Iran to walk out of negotiations. On Tuesday, Mr. Kerry appealed to the House foreign relations committee to “give our negotiators and our experts the time and the space to do their jobs and that includes asking you while we negotiate that you hold off imposing new sanctions”. Earlier, Mr. Zarif warned during an interview with Time magazine that the Iranian nuclear deal would be dead if the U.S. Congress imposed new sanctions, even if they do not take effect for six months.

“I know the domestic complications and various issues inside the United States, but for me that is no justification. I have a Parliament. My Parliament can also adopt various legislation that can go into effect if negotiations fail,” he added.

Opposed to the Geneva agreement, Israel seems to be shifting tactics by hedging its bets on the U.S. Congress to ensure that a toothless final deal emerges after the lapse of six months. The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Howard Kohr, the executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) — regarded as the apex of the Israeli lobby in the U.S. — has advised pro-Israel activists and leaders not to head for a direct confrontation with the Obama administration. Instead, he recommended that their focus should be on the passage of sanctions against Iran, to suitably mould a final deal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also now talking about a “final agreement” which should concentrate on Iran’s nuclear and military capabilities.

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