Russia’s official said Friday there has been a noticeable “very worrying” slowdown in the process of finalizing nuclear talks between Iran and six major powers. The deal is due to be finalized by June 30.
“The rate of progress… is progressively slowing down,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said upon his arrival for the latest round of talks in Vienna, as quoted by Russia’s RIA Novosti.
“This is very worrying to us because there is very little time before the deadline and we urgently need to enter the final stage.”
In April, the nuclear talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany reached framework deal in Lausanne, Switzerland, which must resolve global unease over Iran’s nuclear program.
According to the deal, Iran must drastically reduce its nuclear ambitions and in return, the six powers – the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – will lift the sanctions that have been crippling Iran’s economy. However, the powers would be able to “snap back” the sanctions if Iran breaks the agreement.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Thursday that the United Nations has not been able to inspect Iran’s remaining facilities, which means the six powers do not have any “guarantees.”
“The talks are supposed to wrap up on June 30. We have not yet completed our negotiations,” Fabius told French channel BFMTV and radio station RMC. “If we want to be sure that the accord is solid we need to be able to inspect the sites… We don’t yet have this certainty. This is one of the points we are discussing,” he added.
“The agreement needs to be verifiable, solid, robust and right now we don’t have such a guarantee.”
As it was agreed in the framework deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), would keep a closer eye on Iran. However, Tehran has been unwilling to provide such access to its sites as it would include the IAEA visiting Iran’s military sites, where it is suspected the country conducts its secretive nuclear activity.
Nuclear materials to be shipped from Iran to Russia
Russia, for its part, is interested in keeping the current status quo for as long as possible, which has a lot of limitations imposed on Iran and Moscow is the only partner for Tehran.
However, it must be pointed out that such status quo is extremely volatile and the situation could spiral to either a direct war between the U.S. and Iran or a war in Syria. And no matter how the war would have ended, it would destabilize the Middle East and the global economy as a whole. That is why the framework deal is the least evil of all for Russia.
Besides, Russia has found a way to get the most out of the deal. Under the pretext of ‘helping Iran get rid of nuclear materials’, the Kremlin wants it to be shipped to Russia.
Moscow and Tehran are close to reaching this agreement, which would ship nuclear materials to Russia, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told RIA Novosti.
In May, Ryabkov said that Russia was willing to consider various options of shipping nuclear materials out of Iran, but the Iranian position on the matter was not clear at that moment.
“Russia and Iran are close to reaching the deal on a possible shipping of excessive nuclear materials to Russia,” Ryabkov said overnight into Saturday.
Iran’s oil in exchange for Russia’s goods
Furthermore, Moscow and Tehran are launching the agreement that would exchange Iran’s crude oil for Russia’s goods. The agreement must have been launched back in April, but there were no shipments of this kind due to the Iran’s nuclear program talks.
“We hope that next week Russia will take its first imports,” Iranian Energy Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh told reporters in Vienna last week. “Much of this will be for cash and we will be using this money to buy commodities from the Russians.”
According to Zanganeh, the agreement was discussed with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak in Vienna on June 3. Russia plans to buy “much lower than 500,000 barrels day” in exchange for cash, which Iran will spend on such Russian goods as steel, wheat and oil byproducts.
The fact of reaching the agreement between Russia and Iran was reported back in April 2015, while the discussions on reaching such an agreement has been around since 2014. However, according to Reuters, world traders did not see any confirmation of the shipments.
Bright future ahead of Iran
Exchanging crude oil for goods was a commonly used economic cooperation strategy in the past. As an example, during Saddam Hussein’s times, Iran received food products in exchange for oil. The oil-for-Food program was sponsored by the United Nations.
However, the sanctions imposed by the American and European countries on Iran do not ban this kind of trading.
Iran’s current oil production is estimated at around 2.7 million barrels per day of which about 1 million barrels are exported. However, the country can increase the production and plans to modernize its oil refining infrastructure, but it needs major investments, while all the projects involving investments take a few years to arrange.
Besides, any major investments are out of the question as long as Iran’s nuclear deal is not finalized as there are no investors who would be willing to operate under the Western sanctions.
However, after the sanctions are lifted, world investors will be highly interested in the country. According to various estimations, the explored amount of oil would last for 60 years with the current rate of production.