The five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany meet Iran in Geneva on Tuesday and Wednesday to try to reduce concerns that Tehran wants to build nuclear weapons while satisfying Iran's demands to recognize its right to peaceful nuclear activities. A look at the players, the talks and the issues:
The five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany meet Iran in Geneva on Tuesday and Wednesday to try to reduce concerns that Tehran wants to build nuclear weapons while satisfying Iran’s demands to recognize its right to peaceful nuclear activities. A look at the players, the talks and the issues:
Meeting Iran’s negotiating team are delegations from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. The six nations are commonly known as the P5+1 because they group the five permanent members of the Security Council along with Germany. European nations in the group prefer the designation E3+3.
The P5+1 delegations are headed by political directors or their equivalents who answer directly to their nations’ foreign ministers. Iran’s team will be led by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. But except for the opening session, the main Iranian negotiator will be a deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi.
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The talks are being convened by Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s top diplomat.
The P5+1 wants Iran to curb or stop all nuclear activities that can be used to make nuclear weapons. The most immediate concern is Tehran’s uranium enrichment program.
Iran says it is enriching only to power reactors and for research, but enrichment can also produce the fissile core of nuclear arms. Tehran has not enriched to that level, but it has produced some material that can be turned into weapons-grade uranium quickly. It also has tons of lower-level enriched uranium that can also be re-enriched into weapons grade material over a longer time-frame.
Iran is also working on a reactor that experts say will produce enough plutonium for one or two nuclear weapons a year, once completed. Tehran says the reactor is needed to produce isotopes for medical treatment and expects to finish work next year. The plutonium would have to be converted for use in nuclear weapons, and the U.N.’s atomic energy agency has said it has seen no evidence that Iran is working on a conversion facility.
Iran wants international sanctions crippling its oil exports and financial transactions eased and ultimately removed for any concessions it makes on its nuclear program. Ahead of the talks, Iranian officials have suggested Tehran may be ready to stop enriching to 20 percent, a level that is only a technical step away from weapons grade uranium. They have also indicated readiness to give U.N. experts more overview of Tehran’s nuclear program.
That is not enough for the P5+1. It seeks sweeping curbs on all of Iran’s enrichment activities. That means capping the number and kind of centrifuges churning out enriched uranium, now at over 10,000. It also wants Iran to ship out all enriched uranium that it does not need for verifiable peaceful activities, instead of keeping a large stockpile that theoretically could be turned to weapons use.
Araghchi says Tehran would never ship enriched materials abroad, describing that stance as “our red line,” according to Iran’s state television.
In addition, the group wants Iran to shut down Fordo, the smaller of its two known enrichment facilities, because it is so well fortified that it would be difficult to destroy in case Tehran decided to use it for making weapons-grade uranium.
Further down the negotiating road, the P5+1 wants a stop to the construction of the reactor that will produce plutonium.
The present negotiations are an outgrowth of talks that began 10 years ago between Iran and France, Britain and Germany. The United States, Russia and China joined in three years later amid growing U.N. and other international sanctions on Tehran meant to force it into a nuclear compromise.
The talks have proceeded in fits and starts with Iran’s negotiating partners for years rejecting Iranian demands that its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes be recognized. They now are ready to accept some Iranian enrichment but only if Tehran agrees to rigorous international oversight, caps the size of its program and ships out enriched uranium stockpiles.