| 20 July 2024, Saturday |

Iran responds to European nuclear proposal: ‘Yes, but…’

Two weeks have passed since EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell presented his amended “plan” for the 2015 nuclear deal to the parties concerned. The final text, submitted on July 26 by Borrell’s deputy Enrique Mora to these parties as they were gathered in Palais Coburg, cannot be renegotiated.

The Iranians and Americans held indirect negotiations during four days of these two weeks, but on Monday, Borrell explained that “everything negotiable has been negotiated.”

Experience with the negotiations between Washington and Tehran has doubtlessly left the EU High Representative wary and cautious.

For their part, Tehran-affiliated media outlets responded to the statements and made it clear that Iran insists on conducting a “comprehensive review” of the proposal and its right to make adjustments and changes to the proposal, as its negotiator in Vienna has already stressed.

The Iranians also insist they refuse to confine themselves to a deadline because their ultimate goal is “safeguarding Iranian interests.”

As such, Iran almost immediately hit back at Mora, who had closed the doors to any suggestions, saying that what is needed is “a yes or no response. You cannot agree to the articles mentioned on page twenty and reject those on page fifty.” The proposal is twenty-five pages long.

In any case, Mora said he expects a response in “a few weeks,” and some sources from Paris have suggested the response could come this month.

“Yes… but” sums up the positions expressed by Iranian officials.

The US and EU, meanwhile, have said they are ready to sign the EU proposal. While European sources have said that they are confident Iran will sign the European proposal in the end, citing an array of reasons. They believe some minor changes will be made and that it could take some time because Iran does not want to show that it acquiesced to international pressure.

They also believe that Iran will not sign before ensuring that the interests of the country are guaranteed and that the top brass wants to show that it forced Washington and its western partners to accept better terms than those obtained by the team led by then President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif when the deal was first signed in 2015.

However, it seems that Tehran did not receive what it had demanded in terms of the Revolutionary Guards being removed from the US terror list and that only financial compensation has been agreed to as a deterrent to Washington pulling out.

According to official French sources, however, the westerners did make three significant concessions to Tehran: first, they agreed to the exclusion of any new parties in the negotiations for nuclear deals, leaving out the Gulf states despite their constant demands to be included. Second, Iran’s ballistic missile program was not part of the negotiations. Third, Iran’s destabilizing role in the region was not put on the table.

Iranian officials have said that Tehran provided “initial responses” and that, after thorough discussions of the European proposal, it will put additional proposals and adjustments forward, meaning that we could see additional rounds of negotiations, regardless of assurances to the contrary given by the Europeans and Americans.

In any case, after overcoming or eliminating some of the obstacles of the past, one issue continues to threaten to dash the hopes of those seeking a swift return to the 2015 agreement; Tehran has failed to fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency on its three undeclared nuclear sites where nuclear activity was detected by the UN agency between 2003 and 2004.

Strong doubts remain regarding this issue, with some observers worried these sites could be part of a military nuclear program. So far, this remains a thorn in Iran’s plans, especially since the IAEA issued a statement clarifying that Iran was not cooperating with it and that this could lead, at some point, to the issue being taken to the UN Security Council once again.

The Iranians accuse the IAEA of “politicizing” the matter and acquiescing to US and Israeli pressure. Tehran wants to resolve this matter permanently, and it believes, without a doubt, that the time is right to do so.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was quick to complain about the IAEA to both Borrell and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Tehran fears that keeping this question open will become inconvenient in the future, and it is thus betting that the westerners will eventually agree to forget about this 19-year-old issue in exchange for Iran allowing international inspectors to properly and fully fulfill their task of bringing its nuclear program, which remains largely unmonitored to this day, under control.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat