Iran Deal: Extensions likely as talks get down to wire

Another extension on negotiations looks like the most likely outcome for continued nuclear talks between the P5+1 Powers (Germany, Russia, China, the US, France, and Britain) and Iran. With the deadline approaching tonight at 12 am – Iran’s top negotiator Abbas Araqchi reported back to Tehran on Sunday to discuss new terms with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Prime Minister Hassan Rouhani. All sides have acknowledged the need for talks to extend beyond the June deadline.

The primary issues at stake now consist of what, if any, nuclear enrichment or R&D activities can be undertaken by Iran during the course of the deal. The IAEA has already been installed as being allowed to access and report on all major Iranian enrichment sites, providing international oversight into the program, but the issue on the Western side is the reluctance to lift all sanctions immediately, which has been a major demand of Iran from the beginning. P5+1 negotiators argue that sanctions will be lifted in accordance with measurable steps taken on compliance with the nuclear deal.

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News Briefs:

  • Russia has offered Ukraine a new gas price through September in an effort to encourage more purchasing for winter stockpiles. Moscow and Gazprom have lowered their contract price by around $40 per 1,000 cubic meters, essentially the same price that Kiev paid for its last stockpile three months ago. Representatives from Russia, Ukraine, and the EU are planning to meet in Vienna on Tuesday to discuss the supply from Gazprom, reported Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak.
  • A resupply rocket designed by space rocketry company SpaceX exploded during launch over the weekend, prompting suggestions of switching back to resupplying the International Space Station (ISS) with the Russian RD-180 engine. US Senator John McCain urged the SpaceX launcher be given another chance, citing the need to distance from the Russian space program.
  • The #2 US diplomat in the State Department, Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has compared Russia’s issues in Ukraine to China’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea. “In both eastern Ukraine and the South China Sea, we’re witnessing efforts to unilaterally change the status quo – transgressions that the United States and our allies stand united against,” in the first apparent grouping of China and Russia as enemies of US interests at a high level.
  • China has held a signing ceremony for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), an international financial institution that it is speculated will rival the IMF, World Bank, and Asian Development Bank. Representatives from some 57 countries were present at the signing ceremony in Beijing. China has pledged to provide about 30% of the AIIB’s initial capital, with a 26% voting share, with India and Russia as the second and third largest contributors respectively. Australia, Britain, Germany, and South Korea are also founding members – the only countries with large economies not to join are Japan and the United States.
  • The Kazakh and Italian governments have signed $500 million in deals, encompassing a wide variety of industries from agricultural machinery to construction. Most were centered on dealings between the Italian oil company Eni and KazMunayGaz (KMG), specifically the exploration of the Isatay block in the Caspian Sea. Eni already holds a large stake in the Kashagan oil field. Bilateral trade is strong between the two countries, totaling some $17 billion. Read more at the Diplomat.
  • Mongolia has announced it will honor a $100 million arbitration payment owed to Canadian mining company Khan Resources, awarded back in March due to the sudden and mysterious death of the company’s chairman. The statement came directly from a statement by Prime Minister Saikhanbileg Chimed – the claim came about as a result of a negotiation by Khan Resources on the uranium mining deposit at Dornod. The whole affair began as a result of the $326 million that Khan poured into the development of the project, only to have its mining licenses revoked and given to Russian producer ARMZ.

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