Mogherini announces end of EU sanctions against Iran

IAEA confirms that Iran has met the terms of the nuclear deal.
USA and Iran undertake a prisoner swop.
Moherini, Kerry and Zarif honoured by Arms Control Association.

Iran nuclear deal implementation day

Federica Mogherini, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and a PNND Council Member, announced the lifting of EU economic sanctions against Iran yesterday. The move followed confirmation from the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has complied with the terms of last July's landmark deal - the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – which provides restrictions and international verification of Iran’s nuclear energy program to ensure it is only able to be used for peaceful purposes. The decision to lift the sanctions was formally adopted by all 28 member states of the EU.

"As Iran has fulfilled its commitments, today, multilateral and national economic and financial sanctions related to Iran's nuclear programme are lifted in accordance with the July deal,” Mogherini said in Vienna. "This achievement clearly demonstrates that with political will, perseverance, and through multilateral diplomacy, we can solve the most difficult issues and find practical solutions that are effectively implemented," Mogherini said in a joint statement with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at a press conference announcing the lifting of US sanctions in response to confirmation of Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal.

A total of 92 Iranians and 466 companies or groups, including the Iranian central bank, were affected by the EU sanctions. In Washington, President Barack Obama signed executive orders lifting U.S. economic sanctions on Iran. For Iran, the moves unlock access to $100 billion in frozen overseas assets and unleashes new opportunities for its battered economy. Iranian Transport Minister Abbas Akhondi, for example,  said last week that his country had reached a deal with the European consortium Airbus to buy 114 passenger planes as soon as the sanctions were lifted.

Diplomacy and the Middle East

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, at a press conference highlighting the implementation of the Iran deal, said that the threat of a nuclear weapon has been reduced and diplomacy has shown to be successful. "Today marks the first day of a safer world," Kerry declared in Vienna. "This evening, we are really reminded once again of diplomacy's power to tackle significant challenges."

The U.S also sees the deal as a useful first step toward cooperation with Iran on other key issues such as ending the Syrian conflict and other Middle East crises. As such it is a foreign policy triumph for  U.S. President Barack Obama.

Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, one of the U.S. prisoners in Iran released in conjunction with 'Iran nuclear deal implementation day'.

Prisoner exchange

The US and Iran used the occasion of ‘Iran nuclear deal implementation day’ to announce a swap of prisoners. Four Americans imprisoned in Iran were exchanged for seven Iranians held or charged in the United States.

U.S. officials said the four Americans — Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, former U.S. Marine Amir Hekmati, pastor Saeed Abedini and Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari — were to be flown from Iran to Switzerland on a Swiss plane and then brought to a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, for medical treatment.

In return, the U.S. will either pardon or drop charges against seven Iranians — six of them dual citizens — accused or convicted of violating U.S. sanctions. The U.S. will also drop Interpol "red notices" — essentially arrest warrants — on a handful of sought Iranian fugitives.

US Secretary of State John Kerry linked the trust built between Iran and the United States over the past two years of talks to the possibility of securing the prisoner swop.

Honoured by the Arms Control Association

On January 7, the Arms Control Association honoured Mogherini, Zarif and Kerry as Runner-up Arms Control Persons of the Year for their leadership in negotiating the Iran deal. The winner of the Arms Control Association poll for Arms Control Person of the Year was Setsuko Thurlow and the Hibakusha (survivors) of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear blasts.

Daryl Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association, said that Ms Thurlow and the other Hibakusha demonstrate ‘unyielding dedication to sharing first-hand accounts of the catastrophic and inhumane effects of nuclear weapons, which serves to reinforce the taboo against the further use of nuclear weapons and to maintain pressure for effective action to eliminate and outlaw nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons testing.’ See 2015 Arms Control Person of the Year Announced.