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Diplomats: "Suspension or Ending of Sanctions" Necessary for Successful Iran Talks

Former ambassadors James Jeffrey and Thomas Pickering told a Washington Institute for Near East Peace forum this week that successful Iran negotiations will require flexibility on sanctions.

James Jeffrey

Washington, DC - With fresh negotiations between Iran and six world powers set to take place in Kazakhstan on February 26, two former U.S. ambassadors told a Washington Institute for Near East Peace forum this week that successful talks will require flexibility on sanctions.

“First of all, it requires us to put serious things on the table that we haven’t done yet, that would be suspension or ending of sanctions, particularly the most effective ones, the oil ones," said Ambassador James F. Jeffrey. In return, he said that Iran would have to “step by step, eliminate the possibility of breakout with enriched uranium.”

Ambassador Thomas Pickering also said a “win-win” approach was necessary and warned that, with the ratcheting up of sanctions, there must be a greater effort to  negotiate. “Sanctions are like putting a guy in a pressure cooker and then tying down the valve. And the valve here is negotiations."  

He noted that some in Washington were advocating for a “big-for-big” grand deal over Iran’s nuclear program, but said such an approach would take time and difficult to achieve given the lack of trust between the parties. Instead he urged for a preliminary "small package" to build trust that would involve Iran capping uranium enrichment to lower levels in exchange for sanctions relief.

However, Pickering said, while the U.S. could promise to halt any new sanctions under such a deal, easing existing sanctions would be logistically difficult. “Our sanctions process is difficult to reverse--they built the car without a reverse gear.” Instead, he said, “we have the Europeans who can perhaps take some sanctions off, some financial transactions, even some petroleum transactions.” 

 

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