Iran’s nuclear swap deal, dismissed by the US just weeks ago, may be coming back on the table. The swap deal involves Iran sending a portion of its uranium stockpile to Turkey in exchange for nuclear fuel rods that would enable them to continue powering their medical research reactor.
Though broader talks between Iran and the P5+1 world powers—Britain, France, Russia, China, the United States and Germany—have stalled, the swap deal may still present an opportunity for progress. From AP:
Russia, France and the United States have proposed a UN-brokered meeting with experts from all three countries and Iran to discuss a nuclear fuel swap deal, Russia’s top diplomat said on Tuesday.
The talks brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be held on condition that Iran stop enriching uranium to 20 percent levels, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a visit to Israel.
He said the meeting would be aimed at solving “issues of fuel supply for Tehran’s research reactor,” and came in response to an initiative by Brazil and Turkey in May aimed at resolving the international standoff.
This would be a return to the idea of a swap deal first proposed by the P5+1 and then revived by talks brokered by the Brazilian and Turkish governments on May 17. That deal, which was widely seen as a chance to build confidence between Iran and the P5+1, was dismissed by diplomats from the US, France, and Russia.
This current deal begins with what has in the past proven to be a non-starter – the US, France, and Russia are insisting on limiting Iran’s uranium enrichment program before talks begin. This stubborn insistence on preconditions, a throwback to the Bush administration, stands in contrast to Obama’s earlier stance against preconditions.
The good news though is that these talks, in some form, are continuing. If the fuel swap deal is negotiated between these two groups, it could build confidence and lay the groundwork for broader talks on Iran’s nuclear program.