Iran on Monday agreed to swap its low enriched uranium (LEU) on Turkish soil in exchange for high enriched agreement, thus ending a stand-off with the United States and Europe that threatened to spiral into sanctions.
The deal was reached after 18 hours of negotiations between Iran, Turkey and Brazil leaving the U.S. and its allies, which were pressing for the punitive route, red faced. This point was sought to be rubbed in by the Brazilian and Turkish Foreign Ministers flanking their Iranian counterpart Manoucher Mottaki at a press conference to announce a trilateral agreement that will now be sent to the Vienna Group and the International Atomic Energy Agency for further action.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said the Brazilian-Turkish attempt at mediation would fail.
“The success achieved by Iran, Turkey and Brazil shows that there is room for diplomacy. There is no ground anymore for new sanctions,'' said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. He promised that till the Iranian LEU was exchanged, his country would safeguard it as its own property. “We have done this to open the way for constructive dialogue,'' he added.
“This [talks] is the route to peace…we have established the principles of cooperation in future,'' said Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Luiz Nunes Amorim.
Under the agreement, Iran will dispatch 1,200 kg of its LEU to Turkey and within a year, Russia and France will exchange it for highly enriched uranium fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor.
The stalemate arose after Iran said it would only swap its LEU for higher grade material and only on its own soil.
The path to the agreement was smoothened by the arrival of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his private conversations with Iranian Supreme Leader Seyyed Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday.
With Mr. Silva seeming to indicate Iran's amenability on the enrichment issue, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cancelled his scheduled visit to Azerbaijan to join the talks.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had said the Turkish-Brazilian attempt at mediation was the last chance before the West pressed for sanctions against Iran at the United Nations Security Council meeting next month when the U.S., France and England were expected to press for a crackdown on Iran.
Tehran has consistently denied western charges of developing nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear programme.
Turkey and Brazil, significantly, are non-permanent members of the Security Council and have been attempting to find a solution since last month through the diplomatic route.
“We welcome the efforts of countries such as Turkey and Brazil which are friends, and said we are ready and flexible. However, the other parties should show that they are sincere, fulfil our requirements and provide guarantees,'' said Iranian Foreign Office spokesperson Ramil Mehmanparast.
The last word, however, belonged to the feisty Brazilian President who pointed out that as a politician he did business “eye to eye'' and wondered why leaders from the U.S., France and England had never talked to Mr. Ahmadinejad.