NEW YORK - Iran’s foreign minister said a nuclear deal between his country and the six major world powers is an "opportunity that should not be missed." Speaking at New York University on Wednesday, Mohammad Javad Zarif also addressed the seizure of a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship in the Persian Gulf on Tuesday.
The Iranian foreign minister was upbeat about the framework deal, reached in Switzerland on April 2, which will limit Iran’s nuclear program but lift international sanctions. He said the parties will be working “non-stop” to reach a final agreement by June 30 and that Iran is committed to the process.
“It’s a good agreement...It’s not a perfect agreement - it’s not perfect for us, it’s not perfect for the United States, it’s not perfect for our European Union partners, but it’s the best we can get. It’s the best anybody can get," he said. "And it’s balanced in my view now."
The United Nations Security Council has imposed four rounds of targeted sanctions on Iran since 2006 for its nuclear program - which the six powers believe could have a military dimension.
Although there are some in Tehran who oppose the deal, saying it gives the West access to military sites, the Iranian diplomat said his government is willing to implement the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in order to help bolster international confidence. Iran has always denied it is seeking to build a nuclear bomb and says it wants only a peaceful nuclear program.
The Additional Protocol would give the international nuclear watchdog agency (IAEA) greater powers of monitoring and verification of Iranian facilities, including the right to visit any nuclear facility, declared or not.
Zarif said if the June 30 final agreement is reached, he expects the Security Council would move to adopt a resolution within a few days to endorse the deal and set in motion the process for lifting sanctions.
“The resolution will endorse the agreement - will terminate all previous resolutions - including all sanctions; will set in place the termination of EU sanctions and the cessation of application of U.S. sanctions," he said.
There has been resistance by some members of the U.S. Congress to the Iran deal and the lifting of sanctions. They say Tehran can't be trusted because of its threats against Israel and past support for terrorist groups. Zarif said the United States is bound by international law to follow through with any agreement the Obama administration signs.
“I believe the United States will risk isolating itself in the world if there is an agreement and it decides to break it," he said.
Zarif also criticized Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu for his constant stance against Iran’s nuclear program.
“It’s laughable, that Netanyahu has become everybody’s non-proliferation guru. It is laughable isn’t it? He is sitting on 400 - 400 warheads - nuclear warheads - that have been acquired in violation of NPT," he said.
Israel is not a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons and a facility at Dimona, but does not officially confirm it. The U.S.-based Arms Control Association estimates that Israel has between 80 and 100 nuclear warheads, with fissile material for up to 200.
On Tuesday, Iranian naval forces stopped and boarded a Marshall Islands-flagged ship in the Persian Gulf. Zarif said it had to do with an old legal matter involving the ship and was not a security-related issue.