For Immediate Release: November 24, 2014
(Washington/Vienna) On the final day before their self-imposed deadline to conclude a comprehensive nuclear agreement, negotiators from United States, other great powers, and Iran have decided to extend the negotiations until June 30, 2015 with the goal of completing negotiations by the end of March. In the meantime, their Nov. 2013 interim deal that has frozen Iran's nuclear program will remain in place.
"A historic agreement to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran is within sight. Diplomatic sources on both sides of the negotiating table tell us that if the remaining gaps on two or three of the critical issues can be resolved, agreement on other items may fall into place, allowing the two sides to reach a comprehensive, verifiable, long-term agreement," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.
"Technical solutions on all the main issues have been presented and discussed, but a 'win-win' agreement that blocks Iran's potential pathway to nuclear weapons in exchange for very significant sanctions relief still requires political will by both sides," he added.
"Decisions need to be made sooner rather than later. Having more time does not make those decisions any easier. Now is the time for the top leaders in Tehran and Washington and other capitals to show the flexibility and courage necessary to seize this historic opportunity," Kimball said.
"Based on consultations with knowledgeable officials on both sides, negotiators have made substantial progress on several tough issues," said Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, who is in Vienna monitoring the talks.
"Over the past several months, the P5+1 and Iran have reached a common understanding on the necessary steps in many key areas 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," according to Davenport.
"But clearly," she said, "there are still gaps, which include setting limits on Iran's uranium-enrichment capacity and removing international, nuclear-related sanctions over the course of the multi-year agreement."
"Negotiators have been discussing a combination of measures that would substantially increase the time Iran would require to produce enough nuclear material for one nuclear weapon--to twelve months or more--but would still provide for Iran's practical needs regarding the peaceful use of nuclear energy," she said.
"Until now, Iran has opposed reduction of its current enrichment capacity and wants to increase its domestic enrichment over time to provide fuel for additional nuclear power reactors that might be built a decade or more from now. The P5+1, however, want to reduce Iran's current capacity and base enrichment on Tehran's current practical needs, which for the next decade are very limited," she said.
"The technical teams have discussed in detail various combinations of measures including curtailing the number of centrifuges for a period of several years, limiting research on more sophisticated centrifuges, reducing Iran's stockpile and form of enriched uranium, and providing Iran with fuel supplies in advance for its one operating light-water power reactor at Bushehr, that can meet the core concerns of both sides on this issue," Davenport reported.
"To achieve an effective, long-lasting agreement that leads to the removal of sanctions, Tehran needs to adjust its politically-driven resistance by reducing its current uranium-enrichment capacity, which is a key obstacle standing in the way of a comprehensive agreement, and to provide information necessary to accelerate progress on the International Atomic Energy Agency's long-running investigation of its alleged activities with 'possible military dimensions,'" Kimball said.
"We urge lawmakers in Washington to play a supportive role in the administration's ongoing efforts at reaching a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear puzzle," Davenport said.
"New sanctions legislation against Iran, which has been proposed by more than several members of Congress, would undermine the chance for diplomacy designed to block Iran's potential nuclear weapons pathways and to provide the additional transparency to guard against a clandestine program," she warned.
"Rather than rushing recklessly into a partisan push to impose tougher sanctions, the lame-duck Congress should carefully review the progress achieved so far, help maintain the current freeze of Iran's program through the interim agreement, and support President Obama's ongoing effort with our close allies to secure an effective, long-term deal as soon as possible," Kimball said.
"Those who argue that there should be no more time for diplomacy and want to impose still tougher sanctions are pursuing a naïve and dangerous path. The imposition of new sanctions measures will most certainly provoke Iran to take escalatory measures that shorten the time it would take to amass material for nuclear weapons, worsen the chances for an effective diplomatic resolution, and lead to yet another Middle East crisis," Kimball warned.
"A historic agreement to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran is within sight. We urge both sides to exercise the flexibility and creativity necessary to reach an effective agreement and soon," Kimball urged.
The Arms Control Association 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.