Two versions of the nuclear-accord framework — one American, one Iranian — have emerged since the agreement was announced.
WASHINGTON — Negotiators at the nuclear talks in Switzerland emerged from marathon talks Thursday with a surprisingly detailed outline of the agreement they now must work to finalize by the end of June.
One problem is that there are two versions.
The only joint document issued publicly was a statement from Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, and Federica Mogherini, the European Union foreign-policy chief, that was all of seven paragraphs.
The statement listed about a dozen “parameters” that are to guide the next three months of talks, including the commitment that Iran’s Natanz installation will be the only location at which uranium is enriched during the life of the agreement.
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But the United States and Iran have also made public more detailed accounts of their agreements made in Lausanne, and those accounts illustrate their expectations for what the final accord should say.
A review shows there is considerable overlap between the two accounts, but also some noteworthy differences — which have raised the question of whether the two sides are on the same page, especially on the question of how quickly sanctions are to be removed.
The U.S. and Iranian statements do not clarify some critical issues, such as precisely what sort of research Iran will be allowed to undertake on advanced centrifuges during the first 10 years of the accord.
“This is just a work in progress, and those differences in fact sheets indicate the challenges ahead,” said Olli Heinonen, former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Obama administration officials insist there is no dispute on what was agreed behind closed doors. But to avoid time-consuming deliberations on what would be said publicly, the two sides decided that each would issue its own statement.
U.S. officials acknowledge they did not inform the Iranians in advance of all the “parameters” the United States would make public. “We talked to them and told them that we would have to say some things,” said a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We didn’t show them the paper. We didn’t show them the whole list.”
No sooner were the negotiations over Thursday than Zarif sent a tweet that dismissed the five-page set of U.S. parameters as “spin.”
On Iranian state television Saturday, Zarif kept up that refrain, saying Iran had formally complained to Secretary of State John Kerry that the measures listed in the U.S. statement were “in contradiction” to what had been accepted in Lausanne.
Zarif, however, did not challenge any nuclear provisions in the U.S. document. Instead, he complained that the paper had been drawn up under Israeli and congressional pressure, and he restated Iran’s insistence on fast sanctions relief, including the need to “terminate,” not just suspend, European Union sanctions.
David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and an expert who has closely monitored the nuclear talks, said Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran may be engaged in their own spin to camouflage the significance of the concessions they made.
“Iran conceded a considerable amount in this deal, and Zarif and Rouhani may want to break the news back home slowly,” Albright said.
A review of the dueling U.S. and Iranian statements show they differ in some important respects. The U.S. statement says Iran has agreed to shrink its stockpile of uranium to 300 kilograms, a commitment the Iranian statement does not mention.
The Iranian statement emphasizes that nuclear cooperation between Iran and the six world powers that negotiated the agreement will grow, including in the construction of nuclear-power plants, research reactors and the use of isotopes for medical research. That potential cooperation is not mentioned in the U.S. statement.
The U.S. statement says Iran will be barred from using its advanced centrifuges to produce uranium for at least 10 years. Before those 10 years are up, Iran will be able to conduct some “limited” research on the centrifuges. The Iranian version omits the word “limited.”
The starkest differences between the U.S. and Iranians accounts concern the pace at which punishing economic sanctions against Iran are to be removed. The Iranian text says that when the agreement is implemented, the sanctions will “immediately” be canceled.
U.S. officials have described sanctions relief as more of a step-by-step process tied to Iranian efforts to carry out the accord.
With three months of hard bargaining ahead, some experts worry that the lack of an agreed-upon, detailed public framework can only complicate the negotiations — and may invite the Iranians to try to relitigate the terms of the Lausanne deal.
“I think it is a troubling development,” said Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who has been critical of the Obama administration’s handling of the talks. “They will exploit all ambiguities with creative interpretations.”