Iran nuclear talks: What happened to the nuclear fuel-swap deal?
Movement on a fuel-swap deal with Iran stalled after two days of nuclear talks in Istanbul ended in stalemate.
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Iranian officials say the decades-old reactor in Tehran, which is used to make medical isotopes, is running out of fuel. Fabricating the material is a complex process only undertaken by a few countries anymore, a process that – as hopes for a deal have remained elusive – Iran has claimed it will master.Skip to next paragraph
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“These talks could continue in the future and there is no obstacle, but the P5+1 should be given an opportunity to reach a conclusion for cooperation,” Baqeri said.
Iranian officials have said before they would not give away more in a fuel-swap deal, as required by the one spelled out in Istanbul. Since the first offer, and in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, Iran has continued to enrich uranium to 3.5 percent purity.
Iran also began enriching to 19.75 percent last February – the level needed to make its own fuel for the Tehran reactor, but also one step closer to being capable of making a nuclear weapon.
So what did that “upgraded” fuel offer entail?
On Friday night, the first night of Istanbul talks, Iranian negotiators seemed to “waver” in their insistence about previous preconditions, which paved the way for a Saturday morning meeting between the US, Russia, and France with Iran “to set out what we meant [by] updating” the fuel-swap deal, according to a senior European diplomat involved in the talks.
“Whereas 15 months ago we saw the removal of 1,200 kilograms of [LEU] from Iran as a very considerable confidence building measure, its value had sharply fallen in the intermediate period because [now] they’ve got a whole lot more [LEU],” said the European diplomat, who spoke with several journalists after the talks on the condition of anonymity.
“Therefore on our side, we wanted [Iran to export] a greatly increased quantity. The number changes over time. The important number is … not the number we remove, it’s what’s left behind,” the diplomat said. “What we wanted to do is to leave behind in Iran roughly what would have been left behind in the original [October 2009] proposal – that is to say, it is a level which is some way short of what you need to make a weapon.”
The new P5+1 proposal would also include removal of all the 19.75 percent enriched material. “That had to go as well. And any deal would have to involve agreement by Iran that they would cease enriching to that level, too,” said the diplomat.
Iranian officials have stated in the past that they would not accept a deal that requires them to ship out even more nuclear material in exchange for fuel. But Western diplomats say they never got far enough with Iran to test that position.
“There wasn’t, on either the [fuel swap] proposals or the transparency measures which were suggested, a specific or detailed reaction [from Iran],” said a senior US official at the talks. “And in fairness, we put them on the table [and] said we’re prepared to talk about them in more detail, and talk about them seriously, but … the conversation then shifted essentially to, ‘What’s the basis for having those kind of conversations?' "