Suhasini Haidar

Iran-P5+1 talks: Breakthrough

U.S. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Head of Iran Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wait to begin their meeting in Lausanne. File photo

U.S. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Head of Iran Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wait to begin their meeting in Lausanne. File photo   | Photo Credit: POOL

Talks between Iran and the P-5+1 grouping of Security Council members and Germany reached an important breakthrough on Thursday, as they agreed on the “framework for a draft plan of action” that would be ready by June 30th this year.

The talks, that took place in the Swiss resort town of Lausanne, have seen an extra push being made by the chief interlocutors US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javed Zarif, who worked nearly 48 hours past their deadline set for March 31st in order to forge what they called a “joint and comprehensive” decision. According to EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini and Iran’s Foreign Minister Javed Zarif, who announced the deal standing side by side, the draft would work towards limiting Iran’s nuclear programme to allow for only civilian nuclear activities, as the US and other countries would lift all sanctions from Iran. The plan of action states clearly the number of enrichment plants and centrifuges Iran will have access to, as well as the verification needed by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, while outlining in what stages financial sanctions would be lifted from Iran. The UN will terminate all resolutions sanctioning Iran, that have crippled its economy.

At several points over the past week it had looked as if the talks were actually headed for failure, with both Iranian and US officials telling the media they were prepared to walk away from the talks. “No deal is better than a bad deal”, Mr. Zarif had said. The main sticking points were over the pace and permanence of removing sanctions, and the quantity of enriched uranium and the centrifuges Iran would be allowed to keep. Simply put, the issues were about fundamentals: nuclear-compliance to international standards and national sovereignty.

The framework deal now announced will do more than produce a more nuclear-compliant Iran, and possibly much cheaper oil, it will be a big boost for the leaders of US and Iran, who have invested much into continuing to talk at considerable risk to their own political standing. President Obama is understood to have told Mr. Kerry to disregard the March 31st deadline if that could lead to a solution, despite stiff opposition to the talks by both the US’s most important allies: Israel and Saudi Arabia. President Obama has also staved off all congressional challenges to the talks, but continues to face domestic criticism from Republicans, and even some Democrats.

For Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, who has been attacked by hardliners in Teheran for the talks, more than his presidency is at stake. Already, Foreign Minister Javed Zarif has faced tough threats from senior officials of the revolutionary guards, who were outraged when he stepped out for a walk with Mr. Kerry during talks, and he and President Rouhani were accused of “trampling on the blood of their martyrs” by showing such intimacy. It remains to be seen how the breakthrough announced is received in Tehran and Washington, and if all, especially Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, and the US Congress are on board with it.

The success of the talks will have also have wider geopolitical repercussions not just on nuclear safety, but on all of West Asia, which is seeing the results of the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, from Syria to Iraq and Yemen. For India, any kind of peace between the US and Iran will come as a big relief. India has tried hard to maintain its civilizational ties with Teheran in the face of international sanctions, and pressure from the US. However bilateral trade with Iran has suffered because of banking and insurance strictures, while Iran has been upset by India’s decision to reduce oil imports. An important benefit of a peace agreement will also be a renewed push to complete the Chabahar port route to Afghanistan, which for India could mean the opening up of Iran-Afghanistan trade and also a route to Central Asia. For India, and the world at large, the prize of peace, has been a prize worth securing through talks, at all costs.

(This piece was originally prepared for All India Radio)

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 7:31:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/blogs/blog-suhasini-haidar/article7061246.ece

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