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Foreign Minister Westerwelle’s speech to the German Bundestag on the E3+3 Geneva agreement with Iran, 28 November 2013

29.11.2013 - Speech

Mr President, Members of the Bundestag,

Last weekend, after nearly ten years of very difficult negotiations, we agreed with Iran on some substantial first steps. This Geneva agreement marks a discernible turning-point after a decade of negotiation, including years of stagnation and confrontation.

Let me be quite clear. What was agreed in Geneva constitutes an important and meaningful step towards our shared goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. We wish to achieve that goal by diplomatic, political means. With that in mind, this is truly a turning-point. Those of us who were members during recent parliamentary terms will know that we had several years of not talking. I stood here often myself to speak about the Iranian nuclear issue and reiterate the essential need for a political and diplomatic solution. We have moved closer to that goal of a political, diplomatic solution. We haven’t reached it yet, but we are closer than we were.

In that regard, this agreement is a success for the world, for the world’s security architecture, for the security of the region and particularly for the security of our important partner, Israel. The German Government and the entire German Bundestag – now as in previous terms – never lose sight of the security interests of Israel and the region as a whole.

Further development of the Iranian nuclear programme has been halted for the first time. Especially sensitive areas are being wound down or rolled back. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to this negotiation success, with regard not only to the unity of the E3+3 partners’ stance but also to the skilled leadership of High Representative Catherine Ashton. What the European External Action Service achieved there under Catherine Ashton’s leadership was, in my view, really successful work. These were very difficult negotiations, which the EU High Representative chaired with great skill.

All that being said, it is important to note that this is step one. We have not drawn up the final agreement, only outlined its skeleton. The actual work in detail, the actual implementation, still lies ahead. I will therefore only touch on a few aspects here.

Iran is stopping its 20% uranium enrichment programme. It will dilute the 20%-enriched material it has stockpiled or process it into fuel that can be put to civilian use. Again, let me reiterate very clearly at this point that we have never questioned Iran’s right to use nuclear energy for verifiably civilian purposes. We can therefore have no reason to criticise the reaching of such an agreement.

Iran will not install or start operating any additional or more powerful centrifuges for enriching uranium. Work on the plutonium reactor in Arak will cease. This is of course particularly significant because of the two ways in which to gain nuclear weapons, namely using either enrichment or a heavy-water reactor. It was therefore extremely important to include Arak. Right up until the final hours, that was one of the most crucial and sensitive points of our negotiations.

What is pivotal is that Iran has committed itself in the agreed action plan to ensuring far-reaching transparency. The international community therefore need not simply believe Iran but will verify on the ground whether the items agreed are being adhered to. Daily inspections are to make sure that Iran is not running a military nuclear programme. This is important not least in the light of a number of critical comments we might have read. Let me go into that specifically. Agreement has been reached on transparency and verification. In that respect, we have achieved substantial progress. It is not true to claim that we are working on good faith here, or relying on nothing but trust. The adage is “trust, but verify” – and verification was definitively agreed during the Geneva talks. […]

Ladies and gentlemen, Members of the Bundestag, the E3+3 states reciprocated by proposing the possibility of easing sanctions. For a six-month period, Iran is permitted to receive a total of 4.2 billion US dollars from its frozen oil revenue. Trade in precious metals, petrochemical products and the automobile sector is also to be opened. The EU’s thresholds for non-sanctioned trade will be raised.

Here again, however, it is important to look at what has really been agreed rather than the superficial reports or criticism surrounding it. Sanctions have been suspended, but not lifted. If Iran does not fulfil its pledges, the sanctions will take effect again in their entirety – and the agreement for the time being does not affect the core of the sanctions regime, the key sanctions, in oil, gas and finance.

What we agreed in Geneva is an important step, but it is only the first step that will take us through the next six months. That is not to underestimate its significance in improving the security situation in the whole region. The talks to find a conclusive solution to the disagreement on nuclear power are still to come. The intention is to complete those negotiations within a year. It is now up to Iran to regain lost trust. The crucial thing is for the agreement to be implemented in a transparent, verifiable manner, and only successes in implementing the Geneva agreement can generate the political momentum that will deliver a conclusive solution to the dispute over the nuclear programme.

Permit me to end on these closing remarks. I remain convinced that a lasting solution can only be found through negotiation. The Federal Government currently still in office always put great stress during this past legislative term on the need to find a political and diplomatic solution. We want a negotiated solution. We will take no part in any military intervention scenarios. I believe this has been the right policy. The agreement reached in Geneva is yet further proof of that.

A negotiated solution is possible. It has not yet been reached, but we did make significant progress towards such a negotiated solution in Geneva. That is why I think this agreement is in our interests from a European point of view, in the interests of the West, and in the interests of the world as a whole.

Let me make absolutely clear before closing, ladies and gentlemen of the Bundestag, that it would be wrong to believe that this is ‘only’ – in inverted commas – about the security interests of one country, i.e. our close friend and partner Israel. This is about the security situation in the whole region; it is about the security architecture of the whole region.

As will be clear to anyone who looks in detail at this matter and thinks about the possible consequences of military confrontation, what is at issue here is the security architecture of the entire world and our global interests in security and peace.

The agreement reached in Geneva is therefore one which we can really describe as a positive step. In my view, it also merits the support of all parties in this chamber and the support of other political players from outside the Bundestag.

Thank you very much.

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