In the Vienna conference hall, applause rang out as the negotiators appeared on the stage – reflecting both congratulations and relief that the marathon talks had achieved their goal.
The momentous deal between Iran and six world powers, agreed after years of on-off talks and stand-offs, has been hailed and condemned.
Tehran has agreed to long-term curbs on its nuclear activity. In return, international sanctions will be lifted.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the European Union’s High Representative Federica Mogherini read from a joint statement to announce the deal.
“Today is an historic day. It is a great honour for us to announce that we have reached an agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue. With courage, political will, mutual respect and leadership, we delivered on what the world was hoping for: a shared commitment to peace and to join hands in order to make our world safer,” Zarif said, reading in Farsi.
“Today could have been the end of hope on this issue, but now we are starting a new chapter of hope,” he told a news conference.
The EU’s foreign policy chief said the deal was “a sign of hope for the entire world”.
“The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action includes Iran’s own long-term plan with agreed limitations on Iran’s nuclear program, and will produce the comprehensive lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme,” Federica Mogherini read from the statement.
Later the US Secretary of State appeared to want to reassure critics who say the deal lets Iran off the hook.
“The fact is that the agreement we’ve reached, fully implemented, will being insight and accountability to Iran’s nuclear programme, not for a small number of years but for the lifetime of that programme. This is the good deal that we have sought,” John Kerry said.
“That includes the sizeable reduction of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium and the number of centrifuges that it operates.”
All this began with suspicion that Iran was intent on building an atomic bomb, something Tehran always denied.
Negotiations between Tehran and six world powers – the US, UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany – began in 2006.
Now there is hope the deal could have echoes beyond the nuclear issue, bringing a wider benefit to the Middle East region.
Iran itself may not see the benefits of the lifting of sanctions for several months because of the need to verify the deal is being implemented. Once that is confirmed, Tehran will gain access to around $100 billion (90 billion euros) in frozen assets, and can increase oil experts that have been cut by almost two-thirds.
The US-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran welcomed the nuclear deal as a victory for diplomacy and peace, while hoping that human rights would now be pursued with the same vigour.