Focus on expanding space for a deal on Iran's nuclear programme, instead of a grand bargain
The two days of discussion on Iran's nuclear programme in Geneva have been described by the EU's foreign policy head as the "most detailed talks ever", although the specifics of the Iranian proposal have not been made public. After Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, took the world by surprise at the UN General Assembly by signalling a reorientation of Tehran's foreign policy, the West felt compelled to retrieve the initiative. The Geneva talks, which followed the US-Iran meeting in New York and Rouhani's historic phone call to Barack Obama, marked a new beginning.
The nuclear programme, that has isolated Iran, worries nuclear experts on three counts: the scale of its uranium enrichment — far greater than the needs of power production; an underground enrichment facility too small for a civil programme but just right for a military one; and its enrichment of uranium up to 20 per cent — just one step from nuclear weapons capability. The West's key demands are that Iran cease enrichment to 20 per cent, ship most stockpiles of 20 per cent enriched uranium abroad, allow a comprehensive verification regime and shut down the Fordo facility that undertakes high-grade enrichment. In return, the US, EU and UNSC will lift some of the sanctions that have targeted Iran's energy and banking industries, crippling its oil economy and freezing its assets.
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