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23rd Feb 2020

EU expected to announce Iran deal

  • Mogherini and Zarif press conference to be followed by declassification of the 500-pge accord (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

Iran and world powers have reached a nuclear deal with the potential to transform Middle East politics, sources report.

"All the hard work has paid off and we sealed a deal. God bless our people”, an Iranian diplomat, who asked not to be named, told the Reuters news agency in Vienna on Tuesday (14 July) morning.

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The Bloomberg news agency and other leading Western media corroborated the report.

The news came amid a final meeting of the foreign ministers of Iran, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, and US, as well as the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, at the Coburg Palace in the Austrian capital.

Mogherini and Iranian minister Mohammad Zarif are expected to announce the accord at a press conference later on Tuesday.

The negotiators are also expected to publish all or part of the complicated agreement, said to run to almost 500 pages, including technical annexes.

The breakthrough comes after two weeks of negotiations, culminating in a 17-hour, all-night meeting on Monday, which recalls the EU’s arduous talks on the Greek bailout.

Reuters on Monday said the accord includes visits by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a UN non-proliferation body, to Iranian military sites, including its Parchin facility.

The Associated Press says that a special arbitration board, composed of officials from Iran and the five world powers, will oversee the IAEA inspections.

The details flesh out an earlier agreement, in April, which imposed a 15-year freeze on Iran's uranium enrichment and a massive reduction of its stockpile of enriched material.

The comprehensive deal is to be ratified by the UN Security Council, likely in July, and to lead to the lifting of sanctions, both economic and military, in early 2016.

It must also be ratified by Congress, where the Republican party has vowed to oppose it, but where opposition can be vetoed by the White House.

The talks, described by one EU diplomat as “the Mount Everest of international relations”, end a 13-year long standoff on Iran’s nuclear energy programme, which it says is for exclusively peaceful purposes.

They also represent the closing of a chapter in history books which began with the Islamic Revolution in 1979, in which Iran overthrew an Anglo-US puppet government, creating a near-east Cold War.

The deal is disliked by Israel, with its defence minister, Moshe Yaalon, earlier this week again threatening unilateral military strikes.

It is disliked by Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim power and Western ally, which fears it will help Iran, a Shia Muslim state, to create a Shia hegemony in the region.

It has also been criticised on human rights grounds, due to Iran’s repressive regime.

But Iranian diplomats note that Western values haven't stopped the US or EU from forging an alliance with Saudi Arabia, which doesn’t hold elections, which also executes people by the dozen, and which promotes radical Islamic movements in the region and inside Europe.

The West and Iran have already become de facto military allies in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

But strategic issues aside, the detente will reshape energy markets and trade relations.

Oil prices began to fall on Monday amid expectations of higher Iranian exports in the wake of the deal.

Iranian MPs have said they want to supply gas to Europe, via Turkey, in future, reducing the EU’s dependence on Russia.

The opening up of trade relations with Iran, a technologically-advanced market of 77.5 million people, is also likely to prompt a scramble by Chinese, European, Russian, and US firms trying to establish a foothold.

Meanwhile, the co-operation between the EU, the US, and Russia on Iran comes despite the Ukraine crisis.

A senior EU diplomat told EUobserver that Russia never tried to use the Iran talks as leverage on Ukraine.

“The Russians also don’t want a nuclear arms race in the Middle East or the establishment of an Islamic caliphate [Islamic State] in its southern neighbourhood, drawing in, or supporting, Islamic radicals from Russia’s northern Caucasus region”, the source said.

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