TEHRAN – Former International Atomic Energy Agency chief inspector Olli Heinonen says that “several steps are required before the publicly presented views of Iran and the 5+1 coincide enough to make a basis for a comprehensive agreement.”
Iran and the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) agreed to extend negotiations until September 24 in order to work out a final nuclear deal after they missed the July 20 deadline.
However, Heinonen, in an interview with the Tehran Times, says “four months appears to be a pretty short time” for Iran and the 5+1 group to agree on a final and comprehensive deal.
This is the text of the interview:
Q: Do you think that the decision to extend negotiations for 4 months was a success for both Iran and the six major countries?
A: We do not have details regarding the stumbling blocks, but some public statements indicate that the views on the acceptable agreement are wide apart from each other. In that sense, I do not see that the negotiations have so far been a - Western officials say - success.
Q: Some progress was achieved during the most recent round of negotiations with Iran - enough to justify the continuation of the diplomacy. But why doesn’t the 5+1 group want to finalize an agreement with Iran?
A: In my view, there appears to be a difference between Iran and the 5+1 on what constitutes an acceptable comprehensive long-term agreement. In short, P5+1 wants to cap Iranian nuclear activities until long outstanding issues have been adequately addressed, and the confidence of the international community to the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program has been restored. Iran, on the other hand, concentrates on the early removal of sanctions, and wants to maintain the current size of its nuclear program and even build it further. With regard to its nuclear program, Iran has not been able to convince P5+1 that the program is just to fill the practical needs of Iran.
Q: Under the terms of the extension of the negotiations, U.S. officials said Iran by late November would turn more of its most sensitive stockpile - uranium enriched to a fissile purity of 20 percent – from oxide into fuel for a research reactor in Tehran, but we do not see any commitment from the 5+1 in return for Iran’s commitment. So how is it possible to reach a final agreement when the West’s commitments are not determined?
A: There has been some sanctions relief when the dilution of 20% enriched UF6 has been proceeding, and when part of UF6 has been turned to oxide. So far only small amount of 20% enriched uranium has been actually made to TRR fuel. It appears that both parties have been fulfilling their commitments albeit conversion of 5% enriched uranium to oxides by Iran has been slow.
Q: What is your prediction for the next three months? Will the two sides reach a comprehensive deal?
A: There is a Chinese saying that every long trip starts with the first step. The Joint Plan of Action is the first step, but several steps are required before the publicly presented views of Iran and the 5+1 coincide enough to make basis for a comprehensive agreement. In my view, four months appear to be a pretty short time to reach such a landmark deal.