The global powers in negotiations with Iran have established a mechanism of “snapping back” sanctions against Tehran in the event the Islamic Republic violates a nuclear deal, but are awaiting Iranian approval, Reuters reported Sunday.
“We pretty much have a solid agreement between the six on the snapback mechanism, Russians and Chinese included,” a Western official told Reuters. “But now the Iranians need to agree.”
Meanwhile, an anonymous Iranian official told Reuters there were several suggestions on the table with regard to sanctions, warning that Tehran reserves the right to resume its activities if the world powers “do not fulfill their obligations.”
“At least three or four different suggestions have been put on the table, which are being reviewed,” the official said. “Iran also can immediately resume its activities if the other parties involved do not fulfill their obligations under the deal.”
The timeline for sanctions relief has been one of the key sticking points to achieving a final agreement.
The “snap back” mechanism was not explained in detail in the report, though Western officials told Reuters it would not involve a UN Security Council resolution. The US and European states want sanctions to be automatic, while Russia and China do not.
In discussions also held on Saturday, the Associated Press reported the US and Iran held “at times intense” discussions on how to ease economic penalties against Tehran and how significantly the Iranians must open up military facilities to international inspections.
The talks between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif lasted six hours, in what officials described as the most substantive negotiating round since world powers and Iran clinched a framework pact in April.
“The differences are still there,” Iran Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi was quoted as saying on a state television website, adding the negotiations would “resume next week at the level of deputies and experts,” rather than have the Kerry-Zarif talks go into a second day as expected.
Access to military sites
Just before the Geneva talks got underway, Araqchi said it would be “out of the question” for UN inspectors to question Iranian scientists and inspect military site inspections as part of a final deal with world powers, echoing statements from Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iranian officials lashed out at the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius Saturday for refusing to back down on the issue. While Iran has consistently denied any intention to add military application to its nuclear program, the Islamic Republic is still refusing unfettered access to its bases for nuclear inspectors.
The US has said IAEA access to Iranian military sites must be guaranteed or there will be no final deal. A report Friday by the UN nuclear agency declared work essentially stalled on its multi-year probe of Iran’s past activities.
The negotiating countries have until June 30 to reach a final, comprehensive agreement, with some countries suggesting there might be a deadline extension. Israel has warned that the deal in its current form is insufficient and may still enable Iran to to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear project will be used for peaceful purposes only.