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Vienna talks: US gives Iran ‘examples’ of sanctions it could lift | Nuclear Energy News

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A US official said details on which sanctions could be lifted, and which sanctions are being reviewed, have been shared.

The United States has shared with Iran details of sanctions it is prepared to lift under a return to the 2015 nuclear accord, a senior US official has said, but there will be difficulty in untangling some sanctions imposed by former President Donald Trump.

The update comes as the US and Iran completed their second round of indirect talks in Vienna on how to restore a nuclear accord, which Trump withdrew from in 2018. The agreement saw Tehran curtail its nuclear programme in exchange for relief from some sanctions.

Upon walking away from the deal, the Trump administration pursued a campaign of “maximum pressure” sanctions against Iran. Meanwhile, Iran has continued to violate provisions of the agreement, citing Washington’s withdrawal.

“We have provided Iran with a number of examples of the kind of sanctions that we believe we would need to lift in order to come back into compliance and the sanctions that we believe we would not need to lift,” the US official told reporters late on Wednesday.

The official added that the US, through intermediaries, presented Iran with three baskets of sanctions: those it is prepared to lift, those it is not prepared to lift and those that will require further study to determine if they are in fact appropriate for relief under the nuclear deal.

The third category constitutes “difficult cases”, including sanctions the Trump administration appeared to reimpose “purely for the purpose of preventing” Biden from re-entering the deal, the official said.

The 2015 agreement – which also includes the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, Russia and the European Union – allowed countries to continue to impose sanctions on Iran for non-nuclear reasons, such as “support for terrorism” and human rights abuses.

While many of the sanctions that Trump imposed on Iran were clearly related to the nuclear programme, others imposed on “terrorism” and “human rights” grounds are being reviewed to determine if they were legitimately related to those alleged abuses, or were also punishment for Iran’s nuclear activity, the official said.

The official said there are still “pretty important” disagreements over returning to the deal, adding the talks were expected to be a multi-round process.

‘Open to different kinds of sequencing’

Iran has pressed for the US to lift all sanctions imposed under Trump before it rolls back the steps it has taken away from the deal, however, the US official said Washington and Tehran have not yet gone into detail during the indirect talks on the question of who makes the first move.

“We’re open to different kinds of sequencing which meets our interest – which is to see both sides in full compliance,” the official said.

He declined to confirm a Wall Street Journal report that the Biden administration has voiced a willingness to ease sanctions on the Iranian finance and oil sectors.

The European parties to the agreement had last week expressed “grave concern” over Iran’s move to boost uranium enrichment to 60 percent purity in response to what Tehran says was an attack by Israel against the key nuclear facility of Natanz. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement.

The step will bring Iran closer to the 90 percent purity threshold for military use and shorten its potential “breakout time” to build an atomic bomb – a goal Tehran denies.

Nevertheless, Russia’s representative Mikhail Ulyanov said this week after a meeting of the deal’s so-called Joint Commission of senior officials from France, Germany, Britain, China and Iran that they had noted “with satisfaction the progress in negotiations to restore the nuclear deal”.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, for his part, has voiced optimism about the talks, saying that negotiations have made “60-70 percent progress”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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France asks police to ban pro-Palestinian protest in Paris | Gaza News

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France’s interior minister has asked police to ban a pro-Palestinian protest in Paris this weekend against the recent escalation of Israeli air raids in the besieged Palestinian territory of Gaza and crackdowns in the occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank.

“I have asked the Paris police chief to ban the protests on Saturday linked to the recent tensions in the Middle East,” Gerald Darmanin, France’s interior minister wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

“Serious disturbances to the public order were noted in 2014,” he said, referring to protests against an Israeli offensive on Gaza that year.

“Instructions were given to prefects to be particularly vigilant and firm,” he added.

Activists had called the protest in the Barbes district of northern Paris to demonstrate against Israel’s intensifying aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

More than 100 people have been killed in Gaza since Monday, including 27 children, according to the enclave’s health authorities, and more than 580 others wounded after heavy Israeli attacks.

At least six Israelis and one Indian national have been killed in Israel from rocket attacks by Hamas, the governing political entity in Gaza.

The escalation in violence came after weeks of tensions in occupied East Jerusalem about a scheduled court ruling on the forced expulsion of several Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

In a circular seen by the AFP news agency, Darmanin also urged local police chiefs to assure the “protection of places of worship, schools, cultural centres and businesses of the Jewish community”.

Several demonstrations took place in France during July 2014 to denounce an Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.

On July 19, 2014, several thousand protesters defied a ban on a demonstration at Barbes and the rally rapidly degenerated into violence that lasted for hours.

‘Demonstrating is a right’

The announcement by Darmanin was criticised by activists and politicians who said there was no reason to cancel the protests.

“Demonstrating is a right that you should be the guarantor of,” Member of French Parliament Elsa Faucillon said in a tweet in reply to Darmanin.

“And in this case, given the silence of our country on the reasons for the attacks, it even seems a duty to me!”

Sihame Assbague, a journalist based in Paris, said Darmanin’s decision to ban pro-Palestine protest was for two reasons, including that “there is French colonial solidarity with the Israeli occupation forces”.

“You do not support anti-colonial political mobilisations,” she added.

The head of the Committee for Justice and Liberties Yasser Louati told Al Jazeera from Paris that “we will march whether [French President Emmanuel] Macron and Darmanin like it or not”.

“Palestinians have the right to exist and to defend themselves. If they can resist bombs and ethnic cleansing, we can sustain tear gas and arrest for them,” Louati, who is also the host of the podcast Le Breakdown, said.

Solidarity group president arrested

On Wednesday, French authorities arrested the president of Palestinian solidarity group Association France-Palestine Solidarite (AFPS), who was planning to organise a peaceful rally in Paris.

Bertrand Heilbronn was arrested after attending a meeting at the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs. He was accompanied by members of parliament and union representatives, according to a statement by the AFPS.

The solidarity group had called for a demonstration on Wednesday in support of the Palestinians.

On Thursday, AFPS announced that Heilbronn had been released.





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Ontario, Canada to keep ban on outdoor recreation for two weeks | Coronavirus pandemic News

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‘Stay-at-home’ order extended to at least June 2, as COVID cases rise in Ontario.

Ontario’s premier is keeping outdoor recreational activities like golf courses closed for at least two more weeks despite calls by health officials to resume them for physical and mental health.

Premier Doug Ford on Thursday extended what he calls a “stay-at-home” order for Canada’s largest province until at least June 2.

Retail stores are open for curbside pickup and highways and roads are busy, but restaurants – including outdoor patios – are closed, as are in-class schooling and gyms. Most non-essential workers are working from home amid a third wave of coronavirus infections fuelled by variants.

The Ontario Medical Association released a statement this week stressing the importance of outdoor recreational facilities such as golf courses, tennis and basketball courts in improving physical and mental health. Golf Ontario started a campaign called “LetUsPlay”. Ontario is the only jurisdiction in North America where golf is not allowed.

“There’s nothing wrong with golfing. The problem is the mobility, then after golf they have a few pops. That’s the problem,” Ford said.

But Dr Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease scientist at the University of Toronto, said he is still frustrated about limiting outdoor activities. “These are safe & should be encouraged,” Bogoch tweeted.

Dr Andrew Morris, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto, agreed.

“I think everyone shares these sentiments: 1 Don’t open up yet – get numbers down and vaccines in arms 2. Open up outdoors,” Morris tweeted.

A backlash from police, health experts and the public last month prompted Ford to retract restrictions that closed playgrounds and allowed police to require anyone not at home to explain why they are out.

Vaccinations have ramped up in Canada, with at least 50 percent of eligible adults in Toronto having received at least one dose. The province expects 65 percent of those eligible in Ontario to have at least one dose by the end of the month.

Ford said infection numbers are slowly trending in the right direction and said the goal is for Ontario to have “the most normal July and August as possible”. Ontario reported more than 2,700 cases on Thursday.

“We just can’t open up too quickly,” Ford said.

Ford earlier had tried to open up activities despite warnings from health experts, and then quickly closed things back down as infections spiked.





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of new territorial ‘infiltration’ | Conflict News

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Azerbaijan dismisses the accusations, saying it was enforcing its own border and is committed to easing tensions.

Armenia’s leader has accused Azerbaijani troops of crossing the southern border and trying to stake claim to territory in a new escalation of tensions between the regional foes.

Nikol Pashinyan, the country’s acting prime minister, convened an emergency meeting of his security council on Thursday, saying Azerbaijan’s army had advanced more than three kilometres (two miles) into southern Armenia.

He said their neighbour was trying to “lay siege” to Lake Sev Lich that is shared by the two countries.

“It is an encroachment on the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia,” Pashinyan said. “This is an act of subversive infiltration.”

He said Armenian soldiers had responded with “appropriate tactical manoeuvres” but stressed that the latest tensions should be settled through negotiations.

Armenia’s defence ministry said the Armenian side stopped Azerbaijan’s advance and forced its troops to return to their positions.

Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry dismissed the accusations late on Thursday, saying Azerbaijan was enforcing its own border and is committed to easing tensions in the region.

It called Armenia’s reaction to the developments “inadequate” and “provocative”, adding that Azerbaijan’s officials were was in talks with Armenian border guards.

Six-week conflict

Last year, Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The six-week conflict claimed about 6,000 lives and ended after Armenia ceded swaths of territory it had controlled for decades.

The United States – one of the three nations in the so-called “Minsk Group” that leads diplomacy on Nagorno-Karabakh – said on Thursday it was “closely following” the rising tensions.

“We understand communication between the parties is ongoing and urge restraint in de-escalating the situation peacefully,” State Department spokesman Ned Price wrote on Twitter.

Pashinyan has been under tremendous pressure for his handling of the conflict. He resigned in April while staying on in a caretaker capacity, setting the stage for a June 20 parliamentary election aimed at defusing the political crisis at home.

Moscow brokered a peace deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan but tensions persist.

Last month, Yerevan and Baku traded accusations of opening fire in Karabakh and along their shared border.

Ethnic Armenian separatists declared independence for Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region and seized control of the mountainous enclave in a brutal war in the 1990s that left tens of thousands dead and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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