Following over two weeks of continuous negotiations in Vienna a deal has been reached: the E3+3 partners and Iran were able to agree on a solution to the nuclear dispute. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called it a historic agreement.
A sigh of relief after 12 years of conflict
A sigh of relief echoed through the rows of the ministers and their delegations when on Tuesday morning (14 July), after 12 long years of negotiations, the moment had finally come: at last, an agreement had been reached in the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme. The aim was to ensure that the Iranian nuclear programme serves solely civilian purposes and cannot be used to produce nuclear bombs. A key issue for Iran was the lifting of the sanctions currently imposed on the country.
The Foreign Ministers of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany as well as Iran convened in Vienna from 28 June to negotiate an agreement on the basis of the Joint Plan of Action and following the basic political agreement reached in Lausanne in April. The EU was represented by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The negotiations took place – day and night – in the Palais Coburg in the heart of Vienna.
Historic agreement achieved through dialogue and perseverance
After Foreign Minister Steinmeier and his counterparts held a number of consultations and negotiation sessions at the E3+3 and bilateral levels as well as of course with Iran over the weekend (11‑12 July), the last pending issues were successfully resolved on Monday night. Finally came the words: “We have a deal”.
At the ensuing press conference, all delegations underlined the historic significance of this agreement. Foreign Minister called the agreement historic in part “because we have proven that even large, global-scale conflicts can be resolved through dialogue and perseverance – also where the level of mistrust and even enmity seemed insurmountable at the start.”
The scope for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry out monitoring was debated to the wire. There was also heated debate over the timeline for lifting the sanctions if Iran meets the conditions set by the international community. In the end however the negotiating partners managed to reach an agreement which is laid out over more than 100 pages which detail the conditions and monitoring mechanisms.
The salient points are:
More than two thirds of the centrifuges will be mothballed and placed under the supervision of the IAEA. 95% of enriched uranium will be removed from the country or destroyed, stocks will be strictly restricted for 15 years.
Everything which has been agreed upon will be closely monitored. A robust mechanism was agreed on which guarantees that the IAEA gains access where necessary when necessary. That will apply for 25 years, which goes significantly further than the IAEA’s general rules.
Should Iran breach the agreed rules, sanctions may enter into force again immediately – without the need for a decision by the Security Council.
Contribution to more security in the Middle East
With reference to sceptical reactions from the Israeli Government, when he addressed the press in Vienna, Foreign Minister Steinmeier emphasised that this agreement facilitates progress above and beyond the conflict with Iran:
This agreement rules out an Iranian break for a nuclear bomb in the foreseeable future in a reliable and verifiable manner. And I can thus say with complete conviction that it is an agreement that makes the world, the region and especially Iran’s neighbours safer.
Nevertheless, naturally this agreement has not eliminated all problems in relations with Iran in one fell swoop. It is entirely possible that people who oppose a negotiated solution will seek to obstruct the implementation of the agreement. Yet Foreign Minister Steinmeier thought that the success in Vienna would strengthen above all those who called for peaceful relations with neighbouring countries. For the people in Iran expect more than rhetorical sabre-rattling.
Find out more:
"Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action"
- "Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action" bei eeas.europa.eu
- "Annex 1: nuclear related commitments"
- "Annex 2: sanctions related commitments"
- "Annex 3: civil nuclear cooperation"
- "Annex 4: joint commission"
- "Annex 5: implementation plan"