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Iran’s top nuclear negotiator announced on Thursday that Western nations had accepted Tehran’s proposed framework for a nuclear deal, prompting world leaders such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call such a deal “a mistake of historic proportions.”
Seyed Abbas Araqchi, a senior Iranian negotiator and deputy foreign minister, said that Western nations and Russia have accepted Iran’s framework plan following the start of a new round of talks Thursday in Geneva.
Iran seeks to retain its right to enrich uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon, and process nuclear energy. These demands have led critics of the talks to warn that Iran would still have the ability to make a nuclear weapon if it so desired.
“The first session of the new round of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 was held and we reviewed the last Geneva meeting [held on Oct. 15 and 16] and the [Western] P5+1 announced that they have accepted Iran’s proposed framework,” Araqchi was quoted as telling Iranian reporters after the first round of talks had ended on Thursday.
The P5+1 is comprised of America, Britain, China, Russia, Germany, and France.
The two sides “are due to start negotiations on the contents and talk about the details” later in the day, Araqchi said, according to Iran’s state-run Fars News Agency.
“The first step is highly important since we will enter a new atmosphere of cooperation,” he said. “The last step is also important since it shows where we will reach.”
The precise details of Iran’s proposed framework have not been publicly released. However, Araqchi said during last month’s talks that Iran is most concerned about its enrichment rights.
“The country’s proposal presented in the latest talks between Tehran and world powers was aimed at protecting Iranian rights to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” he said at the time. “The defined goal is safeguarding Iran’s nuclear rights, both in terms of uranium enrichment and in [the] fuel production field.”
Araqchi also maintained that “Tehran would not stop uranium enrichment and that the closure of” the Fordow nuclear site “was not on the agenda of the Iranian negotiating team.”
Top Iranian negotiator Javad Zarif, also the country’s foreign minister, expressed hope that a deal would be reached in Geneva.
“If all parties try, we could reach an agreement in the negotiations in Geneva,” Zarif told reporters in the Swiss city of Geneva, which is hosting two days of talks between Iran and the Group 5+1.”
A spokesman for the European Union’s foreign policy chief said on Thursday that talks were now entering “a serious phase,” according to reports.
“The talks are extremely complex and they are now getting into a serious phase,” according to spokesman Michael Mann. “We very much hope there will be concrete progress here in the next couple of days.”
However, world leaders like Israel’s Netanyahu remain skeptical.
“Israel understands that there are proposals on the table in Geneva today that would ease the pressure on Iran for concessions that are not concessions at all. This proposal would allow Iran to retain the capabilities to make nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said on Thursday as talks started.
“Israel totally opposes these proposals,” he said. “I believe that adopting them would be a mistake of historic proportions. They must be rejected outright.”
Former Pentagon adviser Michael Rubin also said that deal is shaping up to be bad for the West.
“If your goal is preventing Iranian nuclear breakout, it’s a horrible move,” Rubin said. “But, if you’re [President Barack] Obama or [Secretary of State John] Kerry, you’re after a legacy, and a bad deal is better than no deal, then it’s just the thing.”
“Someone should ask Obama whether he thinks [Former President Bill] Clinton’s deal with North Korea was wise, because he seems to be going down the same path,” Rubin said. “Of course, today, North Korea has the bomb.”