Iran and World Powers Announce Historic Nuclear Deal

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German Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federica Mogherini, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian ambassador to IAEA Ali Akbar Salehi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (L-R) Vienna, 14 July, 2015.Credit: Reuters

Iran and world powers announced Tuesday that they have reached a historic deal on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, following two weeks of negotiations, four deadline extensions and a night of marathon discussions. 

Read the full details of the agreement here

Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and the European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, read a joint statement on the highlights of the agreement. The Iranian delegation and representatives of the six world powers were then due to hold separate press conferences.

The foreign ministers of Iran, the European Union, United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany convened for a concluding session at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna on Tuesday, after which they announce they had reached an agreement.

The 159-page nuclear deal, which contains five schedules pertaining to each key component, was to be published shortly after Zarif and Mogherini's announcement.

The landmark deal includes a compromise between Washington and Tehran that allows United Nations inspectors to press for visits to Iranian military sites as part of their monitoring duties.

But access at will to any site will not necessarily be granted and, even if it is, could be delayed – a condition that critics of the deal are sure to seize on as possibly giving Tehran time to cover any sign of non-compliance with its commitments.

Under the deal, Tehran would have the right to challenge the UN request and an arbitration board composed of Iran and the six world powers that negotiated with it would have to decide on the issue.

Still, such an arrangement would be a notable departure from assertions by top Iranian officials that their country would never allow the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency into such sites. Iran has argued that such visits by the IAEA would be a cover for spying on its military secrets.

Western diplomats said a UN arms embargo would remain in place for five years and UN missile sanctions would stay in place for eight years. 

Iran's willingness to expose past military nuclear activity to the IAEA will be a condition for the removal of some international sanctions. Iran has pledged to answer UN inspectors' questions regarding any suspicions about their military program by the end of 2015. 

Furthermore, Iran has agreed to allow inspectors to visit the Parchin military base, where it is suspected to have experimented with nuclear weapons production. UN inspectors will be allowed to collect information and evidence from Iranian nuclear scientists during this visit.

A UN Security Council resolution on the deal would ideally be adopted in July and the steps to be taken by both sides - including Iranian limitations on its nuclear program and relief from sanctions on Iran - will begin in the first half of 2016. 

Iran's demand for the complete removal of an arms embargo - which would enable it to acquire, sell and provide weapons without any restrictions - was one of the controversial points delaying the announcement of an agreement. Russia and China, considered major arms suppliers to Iran, supported this demand.

However, the United States firmly opposed it due to fears that a lifted embargo would legitimize Iranian supplies of weapons to the Assad regime in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The United States had made clear that it would be willing to temporarily and gradually lift the embargo for a few years, depending on how successfully the nuclear deal is applied.

A map of Iran's nuclear facilities. Infographic by Haaretz