The long-awaited deadline for the prospective nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 Powers has come and gone, but negotiations have continued. The US State Department reported that “enough progress” had been made to merit working through this deadline, but despite the optimism, there is no sign that the most contentious issues have been resolved. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reported that the prospects for a deal were “very good and promising” last week before his departure for a different engagement, but his return this past Monday heralded the return of progress. This likely has something to do with a key stipulation of Iranian uranium being transported to Russia for processing and enrichment. The US’s main point of concern is the number of active centrifuges in use by the government and additionally the allowing of IAEA inspectors to examine nuclear enrichment sites, which according to Iranian sources, are designated for civilian use only.
The European negotiators have reported that “a broad framework for understanding exists, but key issues still needed to be worked through.” UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that some of the issues are very detailed and technical and thus progress has been very slow – French and UK Foreign Ministries all stressed that neither of their countries would acquiesce to a “bad deal.”
The main issues at stake, the details of which are apparently being hammered out in these post-deadline negotiations are the length of restrictions on nuclear development, which is currently perceived to be around 10 years. Sanctions relief is of prime importance to the Iranians, who want all sanctions suspended following the agreement of a framework, but the P5+1 is insisting on a phased withdrawal. Additionally are mechanisms for punishment in the event of non-compliance by Iranian officials, which would allow sanctions to be put into place again.
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