Iran and a group of six world powers could begin implementing an initial six-month agreement on Tehran’s controversial nuclear program on Jan. 20 if the two sides reach agreement on the remaining issues, Iran’s deputy nuclear negotiator told Iranian media Jan. 6.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said Iran and the six countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) are “making preparations” to begin implementing the agreement on Jan. 20 if there is a “mutual agreement.”
During a separate Jan. 6 briefing, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that the parties “just have to finalize some of the details.” The “last step in the process” is for negotiators to go back to their capitals for consultations, she said. The parties are scheduled to meet again Jan. 9-10.
Implementation of the interim agreement would allow the parties to move forward on negotiating a comprehensive nuclear deal.
That meeting was the third since Iran and the six countries, known as the P5+1, agreed Nov. 24 on a framework that includes an interim six-month deal to halt Iran’s most sensitive nuclear activities and increase international monitoring of its nuclear program in exchange for some relief from sanctions that have hurt Iran’s economy.
In the three meetings, Iran and the P5+1 discussed technical details of the November agreement, including the creation of a joint commission to monitor implementation.
The November agreement also lays out the parameters of a comprehensive deal on Tehran’s nuclear program that Iran and the P5+1 will continue negotiating during the implementation of the interim agreement. (See ACT, December 2013.)
In Dec. 12 testimony to the Senate banking committee, Wendy Sherman, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, said the discussions on implementing the interim agreement were “to make sure the sequence happens in the order in which we all believe it should.” Sherman, who led the U.S. delegation for the talks, said implementation would begin “in the next few weeks.”
The joint commission also will coordinate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which will play a role in the monitoring and verification measures set out in the interim agreement.
Meanwhile, Iran met with the IAEA on Dec. 11 to discuss ongoing implementation of an agreement the two parties reached Nov. 11. They also talked about further steps that Tehran could take to help the agency’s investigations into Iran’s alleged attempts to develop nuclear weapons. Both parties described the meeting as productive.
The Nov. 11 agreement included six initial actions for Iran to take by mid-February that will provide the IAEA with access to two nuclear sites and with information on Iran’s planned nuclear power plants and research reactors.
On Dec. 8, the IAEA was able to visit one of the complexes mentioned in the Nov. 11 agreement, the heavy-water production plant at the Arak complex. The plant, which began operating in 2010, produces heavy water that will be used to operate a reactor Iran is constructing at the site. The plant is not under IAEA safeguards, although Iran did allow the agency to inspect the facility in August 2011.
Under the terms of Iran’s interim agreement with the P5+1, however, Tehran agreed to halt construction of the Arak reactor.
Before beginning the talks Dec. 11, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Reza Najafi, said that the parties would discuss the date for the IAEA’s inspection of the second facility named in the agreement, the Gchine uranium mine. But there was no announcement on that point.
The Nov. 11 agreement stated that the parties would “strengthen their cooperation and dialogue” to “resolve all present and past issues.” This is understood to include the nuclear activities with possible military dimensions that Iran is alleged to have undertaken.
Although no new commitments were made at the Dec. 11 meeting to address the remaining issues, Tero Varjoranta, IAEA deputy director-general and head of the Department of Safeguards, said that the parties “began to discuss the next practical steps.” Varjoranta, who leads the IAEA negotiating team, said that the agency and Iran “aim to reach an agreement” on these steps at the next meeting.
The two sides are to meet again Jan. 21 in Tehran.