Iran, six powers meet on steps to carry out nuclear deal
VIENNA:Iran and six world powers began expert-level talks on Monday to work out nitty gritty details in implementing a landmark accord for Tehran to curb its disputed nuclear program in return for a limited easing of sanctions.
The preliminary accord is seen as a first step towards resolving a decade-old standoff over suspicions Iran might be covertly pursuing a nuclear weapons “breakout” capability, a perception that has raised the risk of a wider Middle East war.
Officials from Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia met at the Vienna headquarters of the U.N. nuclear agency, which will play a central role in verifying that Tehran carries out its part of the interim deal.
The outcome of the meeting is expected to determine when Iran stops its most sensitive nuclear activity and when it gets the respite in sanctions that it has been promised in return.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it would have “some involvement” in the discussions, which are expected to continue on Tuesday. Held under tight secrecy, media were barred from the floor where the meeting took place.
The talks are aimed at “devising mechanisms” for the Geneva accord’s implementation, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi was quoted by state Press TV as saying. Iranian nuclear as well as central bank officials would take part, he said.
Western diplomats said detailed matters not addressed at the November 20-24 talks in Geneva must be ironed out before the deal can be put into practice.
These include how and when the IAEA, which regularly visits Iranian nuclear sites to try to ensure there are no diversions of atomic material, will carry out its expanded role.
A start to sanctions relief would hinge on verification that Iran was fulfilling its side of the accord, they said.
The deal was designed to halt Iran’s nuclear advances for a period of six months to buy time for negotiations on a final settlement of the standoff. Diplomats say implementation may start in January after the technical details have been settled.
Scope for easing the dispute peacefully opened after the June election of a comparative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, as Iranian president. He won in a landslide by pledging to ease Tehran’s international isolation and win relief from sanctions that have severely damaged the oil producer’s economy.