Sunday

9th Aug 2020

World powers extend Iran deadline, as EU mulls Ashton's future

  • Kerry hugs Ashton last year, when the two sides clinched an 'interim' deal (Photo: European External Action Service - EEAS)

Talks on Iran’s nuclear programme have been extended until July, with the EU wondering whether to keep Catherine Ashton in the process.

International powers and Iran, at the Colburg Palace in Vienna on Monday (24 November), rounded off one year of haggling with a decision to put off the deadline for a “comprehensive deal” until 30 June.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

US secretary of state John Kerry told press the past year saw Iran respect its “interim” commitments.

He noted that its stock of near weapons-grade uranium has gone down from 200kg to zero; that production of plutonium at the Arak reactor is “frozen”; and that UN inspectors now have “daily access” to facilities.

He added that “in exchange”, Iran is getting access to $700 million a month of its funds in frozen bank accounts.

He cautioned reporters not to trust “sources” on the details of what is a highly-classified discussion.

He also praised Iranian FM Mohammad Zarif, saying he negotiated “in good faith and with seriousness of purpose”.

For his part, Zarif said sanctions are hurting ordinary Iranians while doing nothing to stop its “right” to develop peaceful nuclear energy.

“The effect of sanctions can be seen in how many centrifuges are spinning in Iran. When we began the sanctions process, Iran had less than 200 centrifuges. Today, it has over 20,000”, he noted.

“Nuclear weapons don’t serve our strategic interests and are against the core principles of our faith”.

The talks - involving Iran, France, Germany, the UK, China, Russia, and the US - are designed to address fears that Iran is developing nuclear warheads and long-range ballistic missiles.

If the process succeeds, it will give the West a fully-fledged partner in its fight against Islamic State and open a new market of 76 million people.

If it fails, it could end in an Israeli-Iran war.

Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu told the BBC on Monday that Iran is like Nazi Germany on the eve of WWII.

"If this position [non-appeasement] had been taken against Germany in the 1930s it would have offended German pride but it would have saved millions of lives", he said.

“You do not want to give this medievalist regime [Iran], that throws acid in the faces of women, that oppresses gays, that subjugates an entire population, that exports terrorism far and wide, you don’t want to give these violent medievalists atomic bombs”.

But Zarif, in Vienna, retorted that Israel, which is widely believed to have nuclear weapons, is the most dangerous country in the Middle East.

“Probably the most serious violators of the international [nuclear] non-proliferation programme are the strongest voice against an agreement and are trying to create phobia [of Iran] in the international community”.

Will Ashton stay on?

For her part, Ashton - the EU’s former foreign policy chief, who has chaired the nuclear talks for the past 12 months - on Monday read out a joint EU-Iran statement and left the press room without taking questions.

She stepped down from her EU post on 1 November, but was kept in the nuclear talks until Monday’s initial deadline.

Her new boss, Italy’s Federica Mogherini, told press in Strasbourg the same day that she is consulting with the US and Germany on whether to keep Ashton in place until July.

“That’s for me to consider”, Mogherini noted. “It will be decided in the coming days”.

She added there is “a little bit of disappointment, we were all hoping for an agreement tonight [but there is] … also a little bit of hope”.

"It's important that negotiations will continue”.

Analysis

From Solana to Mogherini: What did Ashton really do?

Ashton's defenders say she created Europe's foreign service and clinched the Iran and Kosovo-Serbia accords. But in fact she played a minor role in all three, posing the question: How should we remember the EU's first foreign policy chief?

Opinion

Time for EU to hand Iran dossier to Mogherini

Institutions matter more than personalities in the Iran talks. Ashton did a good job, but it's time for the EU to show it has faith in its new foreign policy chief by giving the Iran job to Mogherini.

EU wary of violence in Belarus election

EU states have voiced fear of violence during Belarus elections on Sunday, as president Aleksander Lukashenko seeks to maintain his third decade in power.

News in Brief

  1. Germany breached rights of Madeleine McCann suspect
  2. EU offers trade perks to Lebanon
  3. Germany charges ex-Audi chiefs on emissions cheating
  4. UK quarantines Belgium, as European infections climb
  5. Bulgaria's Borissov mulls resignation
  6. EU prolongs anti-dumping duties on Chinese steel
  7. Swedish economy contracted less during April to June
  8. EU offers help to Lebanon after port explosion

Feature

The Hagia Sophia and the global battle of symbols

The Turkish president's decision to restart Islamic worship services in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia last Friday is not innocent. So how should we react? By doing the opposite - and make Cordoba's famous Mosque/Cathedral in Cordoba a museum.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  3. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  5. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis

Latest News

  1. EU wary of violence in Belarus election
  2. Iraqis paid €2,000 each agree to leave Greece
  3. EU's most sustainable islands are Danish 'Sunshine Islands'
  4. Worrying rows over future EU chemicals policy
  5. Rainbow flag protesters charged by Polish police
  6. An open letter to the EPP on end of Hungary's press freedom
  7. Renew Europe has a plan to combat gender-violence
  8. Why EU beats US on green pandemic recovery

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us