Iranian negotiators will meet with representatives of the P5+1 in Vienna today and tomorrow to continue efforts to reach a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear programme and address international concerns that it is advancing towards nuclear weapons capability.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif talked up the prospects of the process on arrival in Vienna yesterday, saying, “We will finish all discussions and issues this time to pave the ground for starting to draft the final draft in Ordibehesht (an Iranian month that begins in two weeks).”
A US State Department official briefing journalists on Friday confirmed that the parties were on course to start drafting an agreement in May and that it was possible to conclude an agreement by the 20 July deadline. However, the official stressed that, “in order to ensure that they will not obtain a nuclear weapon and that the international community has the assurances it needs that their program is entirely and exclusively peaceful, they will have to make some significant changes and some significant choices.”
Under an interim agreement signed in November, Iran agreed to a temporary suspension of some enrichment and other nuclear activities in return for partial sanctions relief. The deal was criticised by Israeli officials for easing pressure on Iran. Israel is maintaining a close dialogue with the US and other members of the P5+1 including Britain, and pressing for a stringent deal that halts all Iran’s uranium enrichment activity and closes the heavy water reactor under construction at Arak.
Iran is in breach of six UN Security Council Resolutions demanding it cease uranium enrichment, and an IAEA report in November 2011 concluded that evidence that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons was “credible”.
Meanwhile Iran has reacted angrily to a motion passed in the European Parliament calling on diplomats to shine a spotlight on Iranian human rights abuses. The resolution condemned “continued, systematic violation of fundamental rights,” in Iran and said that, “a high-level and inclusive human rights dialogue with Iran should be part of the future policy framework for bilateral EU–Iran ties”. Among other human rights abuses, executions have risen in Iran since President Rouhani took power in 2013.