Days after sources said Iran was willing to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent and make other confidence-building confessions in return for sanctions relief, Iranian deputy foreign minister and nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi predicted that it would be possible to wrap up talks with the West within a year or less.
“If we see the same seriousness in future negotiations which we saw in the Geneva negotiations [last week], we believe that within six months to one year we can conclude the negotiations,” Reuters quoted Araqchi as saying on a state-owned Arabic-language television station Monday.
“Perhaps within three months or six months we can reach a conclusion regarding the first step,” he reportedly added.
In Geneva, the Iranians essentially said that while they were unwilling to shut down their nuclear program entirely, they were prepared to discuss measures that would reassure the West, highly placed Israeli government sources said Sunday. The Iranians “implied that a compromise was possible,” a source told the Haaretz daily.
Sources quoted in the report stressed that the P5+1 countries (the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France, and Germany) made it clear to the Iranians that “even after Iran carries out certain measures, the easing of the sanctions will be limited,” and a full lifting of sanctions will only be possible “as part of a comprehensive agreement” on the Iranian nuclear issue.
According to Araqchi, such an agreement could materialize within several months to a year — despite significant stumbling blocks, such as the international community’s stance on Iran’s right to enrich uranium.
“This right itself is not up for negotiation,” he reportedly said. “Enrichment is part of the end goal… but its dimensions and amount are negotiable.”
Israel has warned that the concessions offered by Tehran would still leave Iran with the infrastructure for a nuclear weapons program in the future. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly demanded that Iran be stripped of its entire “military nuclear” program — and specifically that it close the Arak and Fordo facilities, be stripped of all ability to enrich uranium with gas centrifuges, and have its stockpiles of already-enriched uranium shipped out of the country.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said over the weekend that Iran has “the necessary political will” to strike a “win-win” deal with the international community over its nuclear program, the Tehran Times reported on Sunday. He added that last week’s meeting in Geneva, called the “most serious thus far” by the White House, showed that “others became aware of the political will of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Tehran is seeking relief from years of crippling sanctions imposed upon it by the West, which Israel insists be kept in place as the only factor pushing Iran to negotiate and relinquish its enrichment program.
Rouhani said that Tehran hoped that “effective steps will be taken to resolve” the sanctions imposed on Iran. “The Islamic Republic of Iran will make every effort to prove to the international community that all its measures are legal and that it has nothing to conceal,” he said.
Araqchi spoke Monday along the same lines, saying that though there were still some issues to be ironed out, Iran was seeking to end its long-standing dispute with the West.
“Certainly there are serious differences between us and the other side,” he was quoted as saying. “We even have deep disagreements with each other. Despite this, we are hopeful we can achieve a common resolution to this dispute.”
He also praised the United States for sending a top sanctions expert to Geneva.
“The presence of this individual during the negotiations and the explanations they gave showed that the Americans at least are ready to show they are serious,” he said.