TEHRAN: Spoilers and “dark forces” are attempting to wreck efforts to clinch a historic compromise between Iran and the West on the country’s nuclear programme, senior members of Iran’s negotiating team have told the Guardian.
Speaking before a new round of expert-level talks, due to begin in New York, Seyed Abbas Araqchi, the deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs, said Iran remained hopeful that a comprehensive agreement could be reached by the July 20 deadline.
But Araqchi, part of Iran’s three-man lead negotiating team, warned that many pitfalls remained, including a chronic lack of trust between the US and Iran, a host of inter-related technical issues, and outside attempts to derail the process.
“There are spoilers everywhere who don’t want an agreement, there are dark forces who don’t like this process … It is clear some people don’t want to resolve this issue in a peaceful and logical way,” Araqchi said during an interview at the foreign ministry in Tehran.
“I don’t want to use the word ‘warmongers’. But these people want continuing tension, a continuing crisis in our region. They don’t want the sanctions on Iran to end. They don’t want Iran to be a major player in this region, although in fact it already is.”
Araqchi did not name any country but his remarks appeared aimed at the Israeli government, which believes Iran is intent on covertly developing nuclear weapons — a claim Tehran firmly denies. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been highly critical of the talks between Iran and the P5+1, the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany.
Araqchi noted that rightwing Republicans in the US Congress had opposed an interim agreement reached in Geneva last November that afforded Iran limited sanctions relief in return for slowing its nuclear programme. Congress must approve any final deal.
But he conceded that he and the other negotiators were under fire within Iran, where hardliners have condemned earlier concessions. “There are some people in the Majlis [parliament] who are very critical and we must answer to them. We should let all the voices be heard.” The two other team members are Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, and Majid Takht-Ravanchi, the deputy foreign minister for European and American affairs.
Araqchi said the talks were going in the right direction. “Whether it gets to a conclusion is something else. Obviously we are hopeful. For our part, we are very serious and we have goodwill. If the other side reciprocates, hopefully we will come to an end. But anything can happen.”
He said the next top-level round of talks, due to begin in Vienna on May 13, would be the most difficult part so far, because the parties had agreed to start writing a draft of a final agreement.