NEW DELHI: Iran is hoping that by the first deadline of July 20, there would be a nuclear agreement with the west — where Iran agrees to limit a uranium enrichment programme, make it transparent and verifiable, while the west lifts sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.
Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister and chief negotiator with the west, in Delhi for his first round of talks with the Indian government after he became foreign minister, told journalists, “The (nuclear) negotiations are going well … I’m hoping by the first deadline (July 20) we will reach an agreement.” The deadline can be extended until January 20, 2015, as agreed with the P5+1 last week. Zarif said the next round of discussions with the west will be on the sidelines of the IAEA board of governors meeting in Vienna next week.
Zarif’s visit overlapped with the maiden visit by the Prince Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, who signed a defence cooperation agreement with India on Wednesday.
He meets Salman Khurshid on Friday where Iran and India will explore investment options for Chahbahar port and the north-south corridor that aims to link Afghanistan and central Asia to the Persian Gulf giving India a short-cut to Afghanistan. This, along with Iran’s demand to free up over $1 billion in payments by India will feature in the official discussions.
The fate of Afghanistan features in every discussion with India, said senior Iranian officials — both countries have the same goals in the Afghanistan but unlike in the 1990s there is very little prospect of the two countries repeating their experience. Both countries have refused to declare their favorites for the Afghan election, though its no secret both countries have strong ties with frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah.
But its clear Iran is focused on getting a deal going with the west. In a speech at the think tank, Observer Research Foundation, Zarif declared there were no longer any zero-sum solutions to global problems. “We are not being intransigent, we have the political will and are determined to implement fully a nuclear deal,” Zarif said. The Iranian nuclear programme, he said, was completely civilian because as the strongest power in the region, Iran, he said, did not want “strategic security” with a nuclear weapons capability. He has a hard sell both to the western countries and his own, where skepticism about US intentions is rampant.
In a sign of how far Iran has traveled certainly with he US, Zarif showed appreciation of Barack Obama and German chancellor Angela Merkel. But Obama is under pressure in the US Congress, and Zarif indicated that a deal breaker would be another sanctions legislation by the Congress. Obama has said in his state of the union speech that he would veto any sanctions. But the Republicans are looking a creative ways of introducing the sanctions legislation with a defense bill.
In his speech, Zarif said, Iran wanted a nuclear programme not for weapons but to stand on its own. The west, he said, thought they could stop the peaceful program. The consequences of US overreaction on Iran resulted in a sharp increase in Iran’s centrifuges. “Iran had less than 200 centrifuge when the process started. Now we have 19000 centrifuges. At the end nobody won. Having measured our losses we can say the west lost more.”
“This region is suffering from a war economy, drug economy and from illegal trade economy. If we can provide an alternative economy, then we can deal with the problems like terrorism,” he said