EU foreign policy chief pessimistic over Iran deal

The EUs foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at yesterdays meeting. Picture: AP

The EUs foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at yesterdays meeting. Picture: AP


The European Union’s foreign policy chief said there is “no guarantee” world powers will reach a final deal with Iran.

Catherine Ashton has been in Tehran for meetings with Iranian officials on negotiations over the country’s nuclear programme.

Under an interim deal in November, Iran agreed to limit a key nuclear activity, uranium enrichment, in return for the West easing sanctions.

Negotiations for a final deal are ongoing. Ms Ashton leads the six-nation group – the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – in talks with Iran.

“There is no guarantee we’ll succeed,” she told reporters in a joint briefing with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Mr Zarif said Iran will only accept a deal that respects its “rights”, a reference to uranium enrichment on its soil.

“I think this interim agreement is really important, but not as important as the comprehensive agreement that we are currently engaged in. Difficult, challenging, there’s no guarantee we’ll succeed,” Ms Ashton said.

Mr Zarif said: “Iran will only accept a solution that is respectful, that respects the rights of the Iranian people. At the same time Iran finds it in its own interest to make sure that there are no ambiguities about Iran’s intentions, because we have no intention to seek nuclear weapons.”

The two said they had also discussed fighting terrorism, drug trafficking, and conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria. Iran is a key ally of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Under the historic deal, Iran agreed to halt its 20 per cent enrichment programme, but will continue enrichment up to 5 per cent. It also will convert half of its stockpile of 20 per cent enriched uranium to oxide, and dilute the remaining half to 5 per cent. Enrichment to 20 per cent is a possible pathway to nuclear arms.

The West suspects Iran’s nuclear programme has a military dimension. Iran denies the charge.

Iran has repeatedly rejected allegations by Western countries that it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability. It says its nuclear work is for power generation and medical purposes.

The aim of the talks for the United States and its European allies is to extend the “breakout time” that Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb, and to make such a move easier to detect.

Iran has won limited relief from sanctions in exchange for curbing its most sensitive nuclear work under the deal but wants a full halt to US, EU and UN sanctions that have severely limited the oil-producing 
nation’s economy.

Mr Zarif said: “Iran is determined to reach an agreement … We have shown goodwill and we have done our side. Now it is up to the other party to show the same goodwill and determination.

“With desire, commitment and willingness a comprehensive deal can be reached … in four or five months.”




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