Iran and six world powers reached a breakthrough agreement early on Sunday to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief, in a first step towards resolving a dangerous decade-old standoff.
The agreement between Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia was nailed down after more than four days of tortuous negotiations in the Swiss city of Geneva.
As part of the six-month interim deal, Iran will get access to the equivalent of 3.1 billion euros in foreign exchange and has committed to halting uranium enrichment above five percent.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has been coordinating talks with Iran on behalf of the major powers, said it created time and space for talks aimed at reaching a comprehensive solution to the dispute.
In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama said that if Iran did not meet its commitments during a six-month period, the United States would turn off sanctions relief and “ratchet up the pressure.”
“Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure - a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear programme is peaceful, and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon. While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal. For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the process of the Iranian nuclear programme, and key parts of the programme will be rolled back. Iran had committed to halting certain levels of enrichment and neutralising part of its stockpile,” said the president.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that an agreement between Iran and major powers would make it harder for Iran to make a dash to build a nuclear weapon and would make Israel and other U.S. allies safer.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu’s government denounced the agreement as “a bad deal” that Israel did not regard itself as bound by.
Before Sunday’s agreement, Israel, believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear power, said the deal being offered would give Iran more time to master nuclear technology and amass potential bomb fuel.