The Holy See has welcomed the signing of an historic nuclear deal between Iran and six major world powers, and expressed hopes that more future breakthroughs could be on the horizon on other key global issues.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said that “the agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme is viewed in a positive light by the Holy See.”
“It constitutes an important outcome of the negotiations carried out so far, although continued efforts and commitment on the part of all involved will be necessary in order for it to bear fruit,” he said in response to reporters’ questions after the deal was signed on 14th July.
“It is hoped that those fruits will not be limited to the field of nuclear programme, but may indeed extend further,” he said, without specifying what other areas of progress the Vatican hoped to see.
There had been increasing concern that no agreement would be reached on the issue, with Iran struggling to cope with international sanctions imposed on it for continuing to develop its nuclear technology.
Under the new deal, decades-long sanctions by the United States, European Union and the United Nations would eventually be lifted in exchange for an agreement by Iran to restrict its nuclear program to peaceful purposes.
The negotiations involved Iran and what is often referred to as the ‘P5+1,’ or the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — plus Germany.
The US Congress and Iranian authorities would still need to review the agreement.
In January and in April, Pope Francis had expressed hopes that negotiations would end in an agreement. In his Easter message of 5th April, he said he hoped preliminary talks then underway would “be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.”
President Obama said that with the deal, “every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off” for Iran.
In a televised address, he insisted the deal would make the world “safer and more secure”, and provided for a rigorous verification regime. “This deal is not built on trust – it is built on verification,” he said.
However, his opponents in the United States have criticised the agreement, with the Republican Speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Boehner, saying that the deal would only “embolden” Tehran.
“Instead of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, this deal is likely to fuel a nuclear arms race around the world,” he added.
Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator and presidential candidate, described it as a “terrible” deal that would make matters worse.
Israel’s government has strongly criticised the agreement. Its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said it was a “stunning historic mistake” that would provide Iran with “hundreds of billions of dollars with which it can fuel its terror machine and its expansion and aggression throughout the Middle East and across the globe”.
He said he did not regard Israel as being bound by this agreement. “We will always defend ourselves,” he added. Iran’s biggest rival in the region, Saudi Arabia, is said to be concerned that Iran could use the agreement to develop nuclear weapons within a decade. As one commentator pointed out, “this agreement creates a danger that the mutual suspicions thate exist within the Middle East between rival nations – particularly Iran and Saudi Arabia – will be exacerbated, and with it sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims.
According to the agreement Iran would be obliged to:
• Remove two-thirds of installed centrifuges and store them under international supervision
• Get rid of 98 per cent of its stored enriched uranium
• Accept that sanctions would be rapidly restored if the deal was violated
• Permanently give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access “where necessary, when necessary.”
Sanctions relief will be gradual, with an arms embargo remaining in place for five years and an embargo on missiles for eight years.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the deal opened a “new chapter” in Iran’s relations with the world, and that “the prayers of Iranians had come true”.
After 12 years, world powers had finally “recognised the nuclear activities of Iran”, he said.
Separately, the IAEA and Iran said they had signed a roadmap to resolve outstanding issues.
IAEA head Yukiya Amano told reporters in Vienna, Austria, that his organisation had signed a roadmap “for the clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear programme.”
Picture: The head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and US Secretary of State John Kerry at the United Nations in Vienna