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The Vienna nuclear agreement - a long-term solution to the conflict surrounding Iran’s nuclear programme

In signing the Vienna agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPoA) of 14 July 2015, the E3/EU+3 countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, the US and the EU) and Iran reached consensus on a long‑term settlement of the nuclear dispute, following more than 12 years of contention. A few days later, on 20 July 2015, the United Nations Security Council endorsed the Vienna agreement via Resolution 2231 (2015). On 16 January 2016 (Implementation Day), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran had scaled back its nuclear programme as required. In return, the UN, US and EU lifted their economic and financial sanctions, as laid down in the JCPoA.

Eighteen months after the start of the implementation phase, significant progress has been made. The IAEA has been able to confirm in its reports so far that Iran is fulfilling its obligations. The easing of the sanctions has also had a positive impact. According to estimates, Iran’s economy grew by approximately seven percent in 2016, while German exports to Iran rose by around 25 percent. Despite these positive developments, however, it is obvious that the E3/EU+3 and Iran are only at the start of a long phase of mutual confidence-building. To this end, it is important that the Vienna agreement be implemented unconditionally.

The key elements of the  Vienna agreement

The chief negotiators of the E3/EU+3 group and Iran before the last plenary session in Vienna

The chief negotiators of the E3/EU+3 group and Iran before the last plenary session in Vienna
© Photothek

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The chief negotiators of the E3/EU+3 group and Iran before the last plenary session in Vienna

The chief negotiators of the E3/EU+3 group and Iran before the last plenary session in Vienna

The chief negotiators of the E3/EU+3 group and Iran before the last plenary session in Vienna

Iran significantly scaled back its nuclear programme as a prerequisite for sanctions being eased on Implementation Day on 16 January 2016. Among other things, it dismantled two‑thirds of its centrifuges, exported almost all of its stockpile of enriched uranium to Russia and filled the core of the plutonium reactor in Arak with cement, thus rendering it unusable. Since then, Iran has only been allowed to use 5060 first‑generation centrifuges in the Natanz plant to enrich uranium for the next ten years. It has agreed to restrict its uranium enrichment to 3.67 percent and to limit its stockpile of enriched material (uranium hexafluoride) in the country to 300 kilograms for 15 years. The underground plant in Fordow will no longer be used for enrichment. The research reactor in Arak is being converted so that it cannot be used to make weapons-grade plutonium. Overall, Iran has consented to the strictest IAEA controls in the world. In the future, trade in nuclear technology and dual‑use goods will be monitored via an international procurement channel. Germany contributed particular expertise, especially on transparency, technological restrictions and the design of the procurement channel and set important priorities with the E3/EU+3 partners. 

In return for Iran scaling back its nuclear programme, the UN, EU and extraterritorial US economic and financial sanctions against the nuclear programme were lifted on Implementation Day, as laid down in the JCPoA. Since then, Iran has been able to export oil and gas again and to use international financial channels. However, the bilateral embargo by the US against Iran (with the exception of aircraft, food and carpets) and the UN, EU and US’ lists of individuals and entities sanctioned for supporting terrorism and violating human rights remain in force. The restrictions against the Iranian missiles programme imposed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015) also remain in place. The “snap‑back” mechanism is an important component of the easing of the sanctions. Should Iran breach the agreement, the lifted UN sanctions can be reimposed quickly and easily, without the need for a UN Security Council resolution.

Implementing the Vienna agreement

The vote on Iran in the UN Security Council

The vote on Iran in the UN Security Council
© Federal Foreign Office

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The vote on Iran in the UN Security Council

The vote on Iran in the UN Security Council

The vote on Iran in the UN Security Council

Representatives of the E3/EU+3 and Iran meet once every quarter in the Joint Commission, which is chaired by the Secretary-General of the European External Action Service and where they discuss the implementation and interpretation of the Vienna agreement. The IAEA monitors the technical restrictions under the Vienna agreement. It uses the strictest monitoring regime in the world and has been able to confirm so far that Iran is adhering to its undertakings. In order to build confidence, it remains crucial that the IAEA continue its detailed verification and that the Joint Commission carry on its constructive dialogue in the future. To date, the German Government has provided 4.1 million euros to the IAEA to verify the Vienna agreement of July 2015 (and previously to verify the Geneva Joint Plan of Action of November 2013).

Economic achievements include estimated economic growth of approximately seven percent (for the Iranian fiscal year from 21 March 2016 to 20 March 2017) and reaching the pre‑sanctions level of oil production of some four million barrels. In 2016, the EU’s trade volume with Iran increased by 79 percent compared with 2015 to approximately 13.7 billion euros. Germany alone exported goods worth around 2.6 billion euros to Iran in 2016, an increase of 25 percent over the same period in 2015.

A large number of economic policy measures boosted this development. Over 100 German businesses participated in the German-Iranian Business Forum in Tehran on 3 May 2016. On 20 June 2016, Iran repaid its outstanding Hermes debts of approximately 575 million euros dating from the sanctions period. Since then, export credit guarantees (Hermes) have been available again for business with Iran. Following a 15‑year suspension of its activities, the Joint German-Iranian Economic Commission held a meeting in Tehran on 3 October 2016. The meeting was chaired by the two Economics Affairs Ministers and led to a large number of agreements on German investments in Iran.

On 12 January 2017, Airbus delivered the first of a total of 100 aircraft to the state-run airline Iran Air. The contract had only been signed a few weeks earlier, on 21 December 2016. Two further aircraft have been delivered since then. Boeing also signed a contract with Iran Air in December 2016 on the delivery of 80 aircraft. The aircraft orders represent important milestones in the implementation of the Vienna nuclear agreement and help to ensure the safety of civil aviation.

IAEA in Vienna

IAEA in Vienna
© picture-alliance/dpa

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IAEA in Vienna

IAEA in Vienna

IAEA in Vienna

The Procurement Channel is an entirely new international export-control instrument and has got off to a good start. Under the Vienna nuclear agreement, the export of nuclear technology and dual‑use goods to Iran is subject to special export control regimes. Before an exporting country can grant authorisation, it must secure approval from the United Nations Security Council. Such approval is given when the country’s application has met the Procurement Channel requirements. The E3/EU+3 and Iranian Joint Commission Procurement Working Group reviews incoming export applications and makes recommendations on them to the Security Council. The first applications have completed the Procurement Channel procedure and been approved by the Security Council.

You will find important documents on the negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme on the following websites:

eeas.europa.eu

www.bafa.de

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Last updated 26.06.2017

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