For Immediate Release: July 19, 2014
Media Contact: Daryl Kimball, Executive Director in Washington, DC, 202-463-8270 x107; Kelsey Davenport, Nonproliferation Analyst in Vienna 317-460-8806
(Washington/Vienna)--Tonight in Vienna, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced that the negotiations between the United States, other great powers, and Iran to resolve concerns about that country's nuclear program will continue for as many as four more months.
In a joint statement, Ashton and Zarif said the two sides have agreed to extend the interim agreement (a.k.a. the Joint Plan of Action) reached on November 24, 2013 and will resume talks on a comprehensive agreement within weeks--most likely in mid-August in Vienna--with the goal of concluding a comprehensive deal by late-November.
To this point, the talks have yielded progress and the two sides say there is a credible path forward, but significant gaps remain on key issues.
It is our assessment that a comprehensive agreement to ensure that Iran's nuclear program is entirely peaceful is still within reach if both sides remain focused and if both sides engage in creative, innovative, and smart diplomacy.
The two sides also agreed to extend their commitments under the terms of the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action (JPoA). The extension of the JPoA prolongs the pause of Iranian nuclear activities of greatest proliferation concern, maintains additional IAEA monitoring measures, and provides the negotiators with the time, the incentives, and pressure necessary to reach a comprehensive agreement in the near future.
The State Department announced additional measures that would be undertaken through the extension of the JPoA that provide additional nonproliferation benefits.
In the JPoA, Iran diluted half of its 20 percent enriched uranium hexafluoride gas and converted the rest to oxide. Iran has now committed to make all of this 20 percent into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Twenty-five kilograms of this material will be converted into fuel by the end of the extension. This will make if far more difficult to use this material for further enrichment to weapons-grade.
In return for these steps maintaining its original commitments under the JP0A, Iran will be allowed to access to $2.8 billion of its restricted assets, the four-month pro-rated amount of the original JPoA commitment.
These ongoing restrictions on Iran's nuclear program and additional steps are a net-plus for nonproliferation.
Next Steps Toward a Comprehensive Deal
At this critical stage, lawmakers in Washington need to support the administration's ongoing efforts at reaching a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear puzzle.
Congress should refrain from actions, such as pursuing new sanctions legislation against Iran, that would undermine the chance for an agreement that would reduce Iran's nuclear capacity and provide the additional transparency to guard against an illicit dash for nuclear weapons.
Based consultations with knowledgeable officials on both sides, negotiators have made substantial progress on several tough issues, including: strengthening International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections and oversight at all of Iran's nuclear sites and related facilities; re-purposing the underground Fordow enrichment facility into a small-scale research facility; and modifying Iran's Arak heavy-water reactor to drastically cut its plutonium output.
But the two sides clearly need more time and have more work to do to bridge differences on the deadlines, duration, and sequencing of key steps, as well as finding a solution to the toughest issue: setting limits Iran's uranium-enrichment capacity over the duration of the agreement.
Negotiators can square the circle on uranium enrichment with a combination of practical but innovative measures that would substantially increase the time Iran would require to produce enough material for nuclear weapons, but would still would address Iran's right to pursue the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
A Good Deal Is Within Reach
Some Washington politicians like to say that "no deal is better than a bad deal." In reality, it is clear that a good deal is better than no deal, and such a deal is still within reach. Those who argue that there should be no more time for diplomacy, or otherwise seek to block an effective agreement, have a responsibility to present a viable alternative. Without a good, comprehensive agreement:
- There would be no constraints on Iran's enrichment capacity. Iran could resume enriching uranium to higher levels and increase its stockpiles of enriched uranium. The time required for Iran to produce enough material for nuclear weapons would decrease, not increase.
- Inspections of Iranian facilities would likely continue, but would not be expanded to cover undeclared sites and activities, which would be the most likely pathway to build nuclear weapons if Iran chose to do so.
- Sanctions would remain in effect, and some might be strengthened. Sanctions alone, however, cannot halt Iran's nuclear progress. Eventually, the willingness of international allies to help implement those sanctions could erode.
We urge both sides to continue to work toward a realistic and effective agreement as soon as possible.
The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.