Deputy Foreign Minister of Iran in charge of its nuclear negotiations Abbas Araqchi said that it has agreed to the major concession of allowing UN inspectors to have managed access to military facilities as part of its nuclear deal with the P5+1 Powers. The UN team would apparently be allowed to take environmental samples from the sites.
However, despite this major step forward, the deadline for a complete deal (not just the framework) is looming at the end of June, in just over a month. The French ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud, let slip during a meeting of the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington yesterday that it was “very likely” that there would be a deal in the next five weeks and beyond, citing a huge mass of technical work, including a key compromise between US and Russia that would allow the UNSC to enjoin sanctions once again in the event of noncompliance, rather than a loose international coalition.
These comments were corroborated during the same meeting, where German ambassador to the United States Peter Wittig said that sanctions relief for Iran could not be expected to occur before the end of the year in the best-case scenario.
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- Peace negotiators from the Taliban and Afghan government met in China last week in secret to discuss the possibility of moving a formal peace treaty ahead. The meeting was organized by Pakistani officials in Urumqi, the capital of the western border region of Xinjiang – the move represents significant step forward in the peace process, seeing as the meeting was mediated by Pakistan and convened in China, apparently cutting Western players like the US and NATO out of the loop.
- Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has reprimanded Ukraine on the status of its debt negotiations, saying that in the event of a default, Russia would “defend its national interests.” Ukraine’s parliament last week approved a measure that would allow the government to miss payments to creditors during the course of the renegotiation of debt – Russia, being the primary stakeholder of Ukrainian debt.
- Pakistan has cut its interest rates to a 42-year low to boost its economy – the move was approved after indications that inflation had completely slowed down since the beginning of the year as transportation and food prices were lowered. The rate is now 7%, and the IMF has accordingly adjusted Pakistan’s growth forecast for mid-year in June to 4.3% from 4.1% a slight increase from last year’s midyear growth of 4%. Outlooks on credit have improved as well.
- Iran’s oil minister softened expectations that OPEC would cut production in June, saying it was highly unlikely. He cited the need for a consensus vote between all of OPEC’s members to lower the production ceiling. Saudi Arabia decided against voting for decreasing production last November, likely to defend the state’s overall global market share against new market players like US Shale players. On the other end of the spectrum, another major oil and gas producer, Russia, confirmed through Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak that there was “no point” in cutting production, suggesting that demand would rise to meet supply.
- Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow yesterday, mostly to confer on agreements relating to bilateral trade concerning the export and re-export of agricultural products – trade between the two countries has grown on order of 12% YoY in comparison to 2014, likely due to the impact of import and export restrictions brought about by sanctions on the Russian economy.
- Iran has announced that it has cut gasoline subsidies, and thus gas prices in Tehran and the surrounding area will rise an expected 40%. The new prices took effect this morning – likely Tehran will be bracing for another civil disturbance, since the last few times prices were raised, mild to severe unrest occurred. But what is the reason for the slashing of gasoline subsidies? Likely this relates to the notification received by Iran’s oil ministry that OPEC would not be cutting production in June to raise the price.
- Prominent Ukrainian separatist militia leader Aleksei Mozgovoi was assassinated on May 23, leading to rampant speculation in the media as to who is responsible. Killed in an ambush outside of Alchevsk, less than 30 km from the so-called OSCE monitored “front lines.” Separatist press outlets accused Kiev of endorsing and carrying out the operation, but Kiev quickly repudiated any involvement in the attack. Most speculation revolves around the probability of an inside job.