Expected Council Action
The Council is unlikely to take up the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme in November. Discussions among the EU3+3 (France, Germany and the UK plus China, Russia and the US) are likely to continue following the completion of the report from the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on progress for implementation of the work plan agreed between Iran and the IAEA to resolve outstanding issues to be submitted to the IAEA board of directors on 22 November. The views of the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana outlining progress on talks with the Iranian nuclear negotiator are also likely to be influential.
The EU3+3 seem to have agreed in September that if there is not a “positive outcome” to the efforts of Solana and Mohamed ElBaradei, they would start work on a third sanctions resolution.
Key Recent Developments
The IAEA reported in late August that Iran was still not complying with resolutions 1737 and 1747 asking it to suspend uranium enrichment. In September, the EU3+3 met several times to discuss the way ahead, taking into account the Iran-IAEA agreement to resolve the outstanding issues.
An EU3+3 meeting was held on the margins of the General Assembly in New York on 28 September, at the level of foreign ministers. They adopted a statement reflecting a new “dual track” approach. In it, they:
expressed their commitment to engage into negotiations with Iran on a comprehensive long-term agreement to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue, after Iran suspends uranium enrichment;
reiterated the Security Council’s “suspension for suspension” offer-suspension of measures against Iran if and for so long as Iran suspends uranium enrichment;
reiterated that Solana was tasked to lay the foundations for future negotiations on the EU3+3 June 2006 proposal for a long-term agreement, with the condition that Iran halts its uranium enrichment activities; and
agreed to finalise a text for a third Council resolution under article 41 of the UN Charter “unless the November reports of Dr. Solana and Dr. ElBaradei show a positive outcome of their efforts.”
ElBaradei later suggested that the IAEA and Iran may need more time to resolve outstanding issues relating to the enrichment programme at the Natanz fuel enrichment plant and heavy water research reactor in Arak. Evaluation may therefore focus on progress rather than completion.
On 20 October, Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani resigned and was replaced by Said Jalili, a close ally of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It seems that Larijani had tried to resign from his position previously. There are fears that this replacement may indicate less flexibility from Iran.
On 23 October, Solana and the new Iranian nuclear negotiator met in Rome to discuss Iran’s nuclear programme. Both sides described those talks as “constructive,” but there was no movement on the issue of uranium enrichment suspension, and in a statement made on the same day, Iranian President Ahmadinejad said that Iran would not retreat “one iota” from its nuclear programme. Further discussions are expected by the end of November.
On 16 October, Russian President Vladimir Putin met Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad at a summit meeting of five Caspian Sea nations in Iran. It seems discussions included completion of the nuclear power plant Russia is building in Bushehr, and plans to cooperate on space, aviation and energy.
On 15 October, EU foreign ministers discussed French-sponsored proposals to reinforce EU unilateral sanctions (such as broader cut-offs in bank lending) before another Security Council resolution. It seems that France had the backing of the UK, but Germany and Italy were more reluctant. A statement was adopted, which said that “the EU will consider what additional measures it might take in order to support the UN process.”
Many elected Council members are deeply concerned about the medium-term implications of the apparent deterioration of the situation, but in the short-term are relieved that the issue is not on the Council’s table.
Russia and China had been reluctant in August to adopt further sanctions before seeing whether progress could be made under the work plan between the IAEA and Iran. The US and its European partners are likely to be pressing in November for a tougher approach.
It seems at the time of writing that the Europeans and the US believe that prospects for success in the Solana-Jalili talks are low.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|Latest IAEA Board Resolution|
|Latest IAEA Report|
|Understandings of Iran and the IAEA (the workplan)|
Statement on Iran of the Council of the European Union, General Affairs and External Relations, Luxembourg, 15-16 October 2007 (pages 17-18)
EU3+3 June 2006 package proposal of a long-term agreement if Iran takes steps required by the IAEA Board.