Iran and the six global powers are set to hold fresh nuclear talks on February 18 that promise to encourage further lifting of sanctions and unlock foreign investment flows to the country.
Following a meeting with the European Union (EU) foreign policy chief, Catharine Ashton, on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the dialogue will be held in Vienna, the Austrian capital.
A decision on the new round of talks is part of a cycle of steps that could end sanctions against Iran, after it was verifiably confirmed that Tehran is not pursuing development of atomic weapons. Iran and the sextet comprising the five permanent Security Council members — United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — along with Germany signed a nuclear deal in Geneva on November 24. On January 20, Iran’s negotiating partners confirmed that Tehran had halted production of uranium enriched to 20 per cent level, paving the way for a partial lifting of sanctions.
The smooth conduct of inspections by experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), of some Iran’s major nuclear facilities, is further building up the momentum of confidence building. On Friday, the head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI), Ali Akbar Salehi, announced that a team of U.N. nuclear inspectors, belonging to the IAEA, will soon compile a report on Iran’s nuclear facilities. In November, Iran and the IAEA signed a joint statement that laid out a technical plan concerning outstanding issues related to Iran’s atomic programme.
The IAEA inspectors visited the Arak facility on December 8. Access to a three-member team to the Gachin mine was provided on January 29. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said on Friday that the stage was now set for handling the “more difficult” issues pertaining to Tehran’s nuclear programme.
“We certainly wish to include issues with possible military dimensions in future steps ... We have already discussed them and will continue to discuss them at the next meeting” between the IAEA and Iran on February 8, said Mr. Amano.
Anticipating a phased lifting of sanctions, western oil companies are already making hectic preparations to enter Iran’s lucrative oil and gas sector. A senior Iranian oil official said that following the implementation of the Geneva deal, world oil giants plan to return to Iran’s market.
In step with the breakthrough in the nuclear dialogue, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani met 30 top international oil company officials last month at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.
On Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama announced during his State of the Union Address that he would veto any legislation being considered by Congress to impose fresh economic sanctions on Iran, signalling the administration’s commitment to uninterruptedly carry forward the ongoing nuclear dialogue with Tehran.