Iran and the P5+1 (U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China and Germany) world powers have announced that a framework deal on Iran’s nuclear program has been reached after marathon talks in Switzerland that blew past the March 31 deadline, setting the stage for a final comprehensive agreement to be reached by June 30.
On Twitter, Secretary of State John Kerry described the conclusion of the recent round of talks as a “big day”, saying that the European Union, P5+1 and Iran “now have parameters to resolve major issues on nuclear program. Back to work soon on a final deal.”
At a joint press conference with the European Union’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mohherini, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that we had accomplished “significant work” and that Iran will “continue enriching.”
While many key issues that were debated in the talks have not been resolved yet, many of the negotiators were positive about the results.
British foreign secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement that “this is well beyond what many of us thought possible even 18 months ago and a good basis for what I believe could be a very good deal.”
According to the parameters of the deal released by the U.S. State Department, Iran will reduce by two-thirds the amount of nuclear centrifuges, from 19,000 to 6,104, with only 5,060 of these able to enrich uranium. Furthermore, Iran has agreed not to enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for 15 years, far below the 90 percent enrichment needed for a nuclear weapon.
Additionally, Iran will convert its secretive underground military facility at Fordow so that it is no longer used to enrich uranium for at least 15 years. At the main nuclear reactor in Natanz, Iran has agreed to remove its more advanced centrifuges. At the Arak facility, Iran has agreed to rebuild its facility to no longer produce nuclear weapons-grade plutonium.
One of the most important key aspects of the framework deal is the breakout time needed for Iran to produce a nuclear weapon. According to the framework, Iran’s current breakout time is assessed to be 2 to 3 months, however, that timeline will be extended to at least a year for a duration of at least 10 years under the deal.
The framework also establishes regular access for inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog. After the IAEA verifies that Iran has complied, the U.S. and E.U. will begin to lift nuclear-related sanctions. However, U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place.
“If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place,” the U.S. State Department said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stepped up his opposition in recent days as the talks neared a framework, saying that it was “time for the international community to insist on a better deal.”
“A better deal would significantly roll back Iran’s nuclear infrastructure,” Netanyahu said in a statement on Wednesday, “A better deal would link the eventual lifting of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program to a change in Iran’s behavior,” he added.