US-Iran Diplomacy | Al Jazeera America

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US-Iran Diplomacy

News, updates, and analysis on the ongoing negotiations between the US other world powers on Iran's nuclear program and other international issues.

US-Iran Diplomacy
  • The next round of talks between six powers and Iran on resolving a dispute over Tehran's nuclear program will be held in Vienna from June 16 to 20, the European Union said on Tuesday.

    EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton held "very long and useful discussions" with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Turkey this week on ways of advancing the nuclear talks, Ashton's spokesman Michael Mann said.

    "The next formal round of (six-power) talks with Iran will be from 16-20 June in Vienna," Mann said, adding that Ashton and Zarif recommended that an expert-level meeting should take place soon.

  • Iran, six powers begin drafting text of nuclear deal

    Six world powers and Iran launched a decisive chapter in diplomacy on Wednesday to begin drafting a lasting accord that could curb Tehran's contested nuclear program in exchange for a phased end to sanctions that have hobbled the Iranian economy.

    This latest negotiating round, which includes the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, in addition to Iran, comes a little more than two months before a July 20 target date for an agreement.

    The six world powers hope to reduce Iran's potential nuclear-weapons-making capacity by negotiating substantial cuts in its atomic program. Tehran says it does not want such arms and is ready for concessions in exchange for an end to all sanctions on its economy.

    A spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who coordinates diplomacy with Iran on behalf of the six countries, said negotiators held a "useful initial discussion" on Wednesday morning and would hold coordination meetings later in the day.

    "We are now hoping to move to a new phase of negotiations in which we will start pulling together what the outline of an agreement could be. All sides are highly committed," the spokesman said.

    Despite some progress over months of talks, diplomats say substantial differences remain and an accord in two months is far from assured, with Western diplomats warning that divisions could prove insurmountable.

    "Quite frankly, this is very, very difficult," a senior U.S. official told reporters on the eve of the talks, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I would caution people that just because we will be drafting it certainly does not mean an agreement is imminent or that we are certain to eventually get to a resolution."

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • Speaking from Vienna, a senior US official said very significant gaps remain in Iran nuclear talks but added that a deal by July 20 is possible, Reuters reports.
  • Delegations have all landed in Vienna. Coord mtgs today, Lady Ashton-FM Zarif dinner tonight, & plenaries start tomorrow #IranTalksVienna
  • Al Jazeera English has all of the details on Iran cutting its sensitive nuclear stockpile.

    From Al Jazeera English:

    Iran has converted most of a nuclear stockpile, which it could have turned quickly into weapons-grade uranium, into less volatile forms as part of a deal with six world powers, the UN atomic agency has reported.

    The monthly update by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), announced on Thursday, showed that Iran had, as stipulated by the November 24 agreement last year with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia, diluted half of its higher-grade enriched uranium reserve to a fissile content less prone to bomb proliferation.

    The development leaves Iran with substantially less of the 20 percent enriched uranium that it would need for a nuclear warhead, the Associated Press news agency reported.

    The IAEA, which has a pivotal role in verifying that Iran is living up to its part of the accord, made clear that Iran so far is undertaking the agreed steps to curb its nuclear programme.

    Iran denies any interest in atomic arms. But it agreed to some nuclear concessions in exchange for a partial lifting of sanctions crippling its economy under the deal, which took effect in January.

    The IAEA report also pointed to a new delay in Iran's construction of a plant designed to turn low-enriched uranium gas (LEU) into an oxide powder that is not suitable for further processing into highly-enriched bomb-grade uranium.

    Tehran told the IAEA last month that the site would be commissioned on April 9. But Thursday's update by the UN nuclear watchdog said the commissioning had been put off, without giving any reason.

    However, "Iran has indicated to the agency that this will not have an adverse impact on the implementation of (its) undertaking" to convert the uranium gas, the agency said.

  • Following Thursday's favorable report from the IAEA, the Treasury has released $450 million of frozen Iranian funds, Reuters reports, citing the State Department.
  • Iran is complying with the terms of last year's interim nuclear agreement with six world powers and is continuing to reduce its most sensitive uranium stockpile, a monthly update from the U.N. atomic agency obtained by Reuters showed on Thursday.

    But the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has a pivotal role in verifying that Iran is living up to its part of the deal, also indicated a delay in the commissioning of a nuclear conversion plant that Tehran needs to fulfill all parts of the six-month agreement by the time it ends on July 20.

    Under the landmark accord that took effect on January 20, Iran curbed some parts of its nuclear program in exchange for a limited easing of sanctions that have battered the oil producer's economy.

    The IAEA update showed that Iran had - as stipulated by the November 24 agreement with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia - diluted half of its higher-grade enriched uranium stockpile to a less proliferation-sensitive fissile concentration.

    The accord was designed to buy time for talks on a permanent settlement of the decade-old dispute over nuclear activities that Iran says are peaceful but the West fears may be aimed at developing an atomic bomb capability. Those talks got under way in February and the next meeting is due on May 13 in Vienna.

  • Iran expects to get a fifth installment this week of previously blocked overseas funds, a senior official was quoted as saying, a payment that would confirm Iranian compliance with a landmark deal with world powers to curb its nuclear program.

    Under last year's interim agreement that took effect on January 20, Iran will receive a total of $4.2 billion of such funds in eight payments over six months, if it lives up to its part of the accord aimed at allaying fears about its atomic aims.

    It says it has already received four transfers in February and March, totaling some $2.1 billion. A fifth payment of $450 million was due on April 15, contingent on Iran having diluted half of its most sensitive stockpile of nuclear materials. Diplomats say Iran is meeting its commitments under the accord.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht-Ravanchi told the official IRNA news agency on Tuesday that the latest installment "was to be freed today", without giving details. Takht-Ravanchi is a senior member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team. The English-language IRNA report was dated April 16.

    The head of the U.N. nuclear agency, Yukiya Amano, last week told Reuters that the nuclear agreement between Iran and the powers - the United States, France, Russia, Germany, China and Britain - was being implemented as planned.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has inspectors on the ground in Iran, issues monthly updates on whether Iran is complying with the deal. The next update is expected this week.

    Under the November 24 agreement, Iran agreed to halt its higher-grade uranium enrichment work and to dilute and convert its stockpile of uranium enriched to a fissile purity of 20 percent.

    Enriched uranium can be used to power nuclear power plants, Iran's stated goal, but also provide material for bombs if refined to a high degree, which the West fears may be the country's ultimate aim. Iran denies those suspicions.

    The interim agreement was designed to buy time for Iran and the powers to negotiate a permanent deal to resolve the decade-old dispute over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Talks got under way in February with a self-imposed July 20 deadline for an agreement.

  • Opinion: Continuing nuclear proliferation

    The United States and Iran are in the midst of difficult negotiations about the possible acquisition by Iran of nuclear weapons. The likelihood that these negotiations will result in an agreed-upon formula seems relatively low, since there are powerful forces in both countries that are strongly opposed to an accord, and are working very hard to sabotage any agreement.

    The standard view in the United States and western Europe is that the issue is how to keep a presumably untrustworthy country, Iran, from acquiring weapons with which Iran might impose itself on Israel and on the Arab world generally. However, in reality this is not the issue at all. Iran is no more likely to use a nuclear weapon, if she acquired one, than any of the ten other states that already have such weapons. And Iran's capacity to safeguard weapons against theft or sabotage is probably higher than most countries.

    The real issue is quite different. The attempt to keep Iran from becoming a nuclear power is like keeping a finger in the dyke. If one removes the finger, there will be a flood. The fear is that if we remove the finger, the world might soon thereafter have not ten such powers but twenty or thirty. To see this clearly, one has to review the history of nuclear weapons.

    The story starts in the Second World War, during which the United States and Germany were in acute competition to develop an atomic bomb to use against the other. At the moment Germany surrendered, neither had succeeded, but the United States was much further advanced. At that point, two things happened. The United States and the Soviet Union agreed at the Potsdam meeting that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan three months after the surrender of Germany, that is, on August 8. And the United States tested its first nuclear explosion on July 16, after the end of the war with Germany.

    On August 6 (two days before the Soviet Union had promised to enter the war against Japan), the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The Soviet Union carried out its promise on August 8. To demonstrate that this bombing was not a one-time possibility, the United States dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki on August 9.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • The State Department has released some information that was made public on a phone call with reporters on the nuclear talks that wrapped up Wednesday between Iran and six major powers.

    From the State Department:

    Hello, everyone, and thank you for coming today for this backgrounder. It’s amazing to think that only a few months ago, many of us were in Geneva in the freezing cold finalizing the Joint Plan of Action at 4 in the morning. And today, we find ourselves at the halfway point in these comprehensive negotiations in a somewhat warmer and beautiful Vienna. Geneva was beautiful, just cold. (Laughter.)

    In the past two days, we have continued our substantive discussions about all of the issues that will have to be part of a comprehensive agreement – every single issue you can imagine. These sessions have been in-depth and the conversations have given us important additional insights into where the biggest and most challenging gaps will be as we move forward.

    At this point, we don’t know if we’ll be successful in bridging those gaps, but we are certainly committed, as everyone in the room is, to trying. One thing to keep in mind as we reach this midway mark is that all sides have kept all of the commitments they made in the Joint Plan of Action. That’s given all of us more confidence as we negotiate this even tougher comprehensive agreement.

    In that vein today, we’ve just concluded a meeting of the Joint Commission that was announced when we implemented the Joint Plan of Action. Given it’s the halfway point, we thought it would be an appropriate time to check in on implementation progress, and as I said, the report out of that meeting which I just received is everyone acknowledged that everything was going well. This meeting took place at the experts level, not at the political directors level.

    The next step in this process is to begin actually drafting text, which we have all said would happen after this round. This round and the last round was used to review all of the issues and understand each other’s positions at the beginning of this negotiation. I would caution everyone from thinking that a final agreement is imminent or that it will be easy. As we draft, I have no doubt this will be quite difficult at times. And as we’ve always been clear and as we said explicitly when we were negotiating the Joint Plan of Action – and it is even more so for the comprehensive agreement – we will not rush into a bad deal. We just won’t do it. No deal – as Secretary Kerry has said many times, as the President of the United States has said, no deal is better than a bad deal.

    So now, we’ll move forward to begin drafting actual language. We’ll meet back here in Vienna at the political director level in May. As always, our experts and political directors will be working in the meantime on all of the technical issues that are a part of these talks. And we are all very focused on that special date, July 20th, because we believe that it should give us sufficient time to reach a comprehensive agreement if an agreement is indeed possible.

  • Iran warns Western leaders that nuclear program not be stopped

    Celebrating a holiday marking when Iran first enriched uranium, the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader urged negotiators Wednesday not to give in to "coercive words" in talks underway with world powers over the country's nuclear program.

    "Our negotiators should not accept any coercive words from the other party," Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Iranian nuclear scientists at a commemoration of the country's National Day of Nuclear Technology. "None of the country's nuclear achievements can be stopped and no one has the right to bargain over it.”

    Khamenei spoke as negotiators from Iran and the so-called “P5+1” world powers – the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – met for the second of two days of talks in Vienna aimed at clearing the way for a long-term accord on curbing Tehran's nuclear program. Khamenei supported the talks, run under the government of moderate President Hassan Rouhani. Hard-liners, however, have strongly opposed them.

    A first-step deal, in effect since January, has curbed some Iranian nuclear activities in return for limited sanctions relief as the two sides work toward a final agreement. Negotiators face an informal July deadline to come up with a permanent deal.

    In meetings separate from the powers' talks, Iran is cooperating with inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who are seeking answers about detonators – which could be used to help set off an atomic explosive device – as part of a wider investigation into Tehran's activities, their chief said Wednesday.

    Read more at Al Jazeera America
  • A senior U.S. official says the Russian delegation played its usual 'constructive, focused role' in the Iranian nuclear talks, Reuters reports.

    The senior U.S. official says 'now we are set to start drafting' a long-term Iran nuclear deal, according to Reuters.
  • Speaking from Vienna, a senior U.S. administration official says it is unclear if the six powers and Iran will succeed in overcoming differences in nuclear talks, Reuters reports.
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday that the Islamic Republic and major powers had reached agreement on up to 60 percent of the issues regarding the country's disputed nuclear activities.

    "We have agreement over 50 to 60 percent of the (final) draft ... but the remaining parts are very important and contain various issues," Zarif told reporters.

    The negotiators from Iran and the so-called P5-plus-one - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - plan after their two days of talks in Vienna to start drafting the agreement to meet a self-imposed July 20 deadline.

  • Speaking from Vienna, a senior Chinese official at the nuclear talks with Iran says is optimistic that a comprehensive deal can be reached by the July 20 deadline, Reuters reports.

    The Chinese official says the Russian role in the six-power talks with Iran is constructive and helpful to the overall results.
  • Iran's Foreign Minister Zarif says Iran and major powers have reached an agreement on up to 60 percent of a final nuclear deal, Reuters reports.
  • Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday the Islamic Republic would not accept any pressure over its nuclear activities.

    "Nothing can be imposed on Iran regarding its nuclear activities," Zarif told reporters after two days of talks in Vienna with the six major powers.

  • Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif says 'nothing can be imposed' on the Islamic state over its nuclear activities, Reuters reports.
  • EU High Representative Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif have released the following joint statement on the recently concluded round of nuclear talks:

    "Minister Zarif and I, together with the Political Directors of China, France, Germany, Russia, 
    the United Kingdom and the United States, just finished a third round of talks in our ongoing 
    diplomatic effort to seek a Comprehensive Agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue as 
    envisaged in the Joint Plan of Action. 

    We would again like to thank the Austrian Foreign Minister and his staff as well as the United 
    Nations for their support in hosting these negotiations in Vienna. 

  • In joint statement, EU High Rep Ashton & Iran's FM Zarif say they are working to try to bridge gaps. Hard work ahead. #irantalksvienna
  • Six world powers and Iran will need "a lot of intensive work" to bridge differences during talks over Tehran's nuclear programme, the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Wednesday after their latest meeting.

    Speaking after two days of talks in Vienna between the seven nations, coordinated by the EU, Ashton said a new round of talks would start on May 13, also in the Austrian capital.

  • “A lot of intensive work" needed to overcome differences EU's Ashton at press briefing #irantalksvienna . nuclear negotiations resume May 13
  • EU's Ashton says 'intensive work' is required to bridge the differences in the Iran nuclear talks, Reuters reports.
  • Final plenary of round three of comprehensive Iran nuclear talks is underway with P5+1, EU, and Iranian negotiators:

  • According to a western diplomat, the next round of Iran nuclear talks with six major powers is slated to begin on May 13 in Vienna, Reuters reports.
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