Twitter tiff suggests major gaps still remain over nuclear deal

Iranian foreign minister tweets against US assertion that sanctions relief will be ‘in phases’

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif,  February 17, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/MAXIM MALINOVSKY)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, February 17, 2015. (photo credit: AFP/MAXIM MALINOVSKY)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif issued a series of tweets late Thursday that protested the US State Department’s assertion that the nuclear deal struck between Iran and world powers would only see sanctions on the Islamic Republic removed “in phases.”

“In return for Iran’s future cooperation, we and our international partners will provide relief in phases from the sanctions that have impacted Iran’s economy,” Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday, after the announcement that a deal had been reached. “And if we find at any point that Iran is not complying with this agreement, the sanctions can snap back into place,” he added.

In a State Department statement, the US insisted that “Iran will receive sanctions relief, if it verifiably abides by its commitments.”

It added: “US and EU nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.”

And it noted further: “The architecture of US nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal and allow for snap-back of sanctions in the event of significant non-performance.”

Finally, the American statement said, “all past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns (enrichment, Fordow, Arak, PMD, and transparency).”

But Iran’s foreign minister and chief negotiator disagreed with this American assessment of the speed at which the sanctions would be lifted under the terms of Thursday’s agreement, and called the American statement “spin.”

“The solutions are good for all, as they stand,” Zarif tweeted. “There is no need to spin using ‘fact sheets’ so early on.”

He then tweeted quotes from the agreement arguing that they signaled sanctions relief would be immediate.

“Iran/5+1 Statement: ‘US will cease the application of ALL nuclear-related secondary economic and financial sanctions.’ Is this gradual?” he wondered.

“Iran/P5+1 Statement: “The EU will TERMINATE the implementation of ALL nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions”. How about this?” he added.

He concluded by calling for “a serious agreement based on mutual respect.”

The question of the timing of sanctions relief is a key point of contention between the Obama administration that struck the deal and critics in the US, Israel and elsewhere who believe it leaves Iran in possession of too much nuclear infrastructure with potentially military applications.

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