Seven prominent Europeans – all Council Members of the European Council on Foreign Relations acting in a personal capacity – have signed an open letter urging the EU 3+3 countries (Germany, France, United Kingdom, China, Russia, United States) and Iran to reach a final nuclear deal by 24 November. As the deadline for the talks fast approaches, the signatories have emphasised that the technical solutions for a final deal are now on the table, and they have called on negotiating parties and their respective leaderships to make the tough compromises needed to seal an agreement this month.
The open letter has appeared in prominent newspapers across Europe, including the Spanish daily El Mundo, the Italian daily Corriere Della Serra, the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, and the German daily Tagesspiegel. Below is the text in English as it appeared in The Guardian:
We urge the the EU3+3 countries (the UK, Germany and France and the US, China and Russia) and Iran to reach agreement on a comprehensive nuclear deal by the 24 November deadline. Postponing the final tough decisions ahead is likely to provide more opportunities for those opposing the diplomatic track to spoil this process. This is especially so when creative technical solutions have been formulated and a deal is within reach – a deal that will peacefully and effectively address proliferation concerns of the EU3+3 over Iran’s nuclear programme, while respecting Iranian legitimate aspirations and sovereignty.
The interim nuclear deal signed in November 2013 provided the most robust assurances for the EU3+3 to date by placing rigorous monitoring over Iran’s nuclear programme while capping and rolling back its enriched uranium output. To reach this stage of negotiations, Europeans have invested extensive resources by carrying the economic costs of an unprecedented sanctions regime against Iran as well as the regional consequences of pursuing isolation of Tehran. Europe must seize this moment to encourage the negotiating parties to address the outstanding areas through reasonable compromises while steering clear of issues that are not essential to a good deal. Europeans should also work with the US administration in reassuring sceptical regional allies of the long-term strategic benefits entailed in a final nuclear deal.
The cost of failed negotiations should also be borne in mind. For the EU3+3, failure would likely result in an unrestrained and weakly monitored Iranian nuclear programme that is off-limits to surveillance. A failure to reach a final deal followed by escalated sanctions, tensions and Iranian isolation could result in greater incentives for Iran to seek nuclear weapons, more active undermining of western interests and an increasingly hair-trigger military standoff. On the Iranian side, the costs of failure, both in economic and security terms, are incalculable. For some opponents of a deal on both sides such an outcome may be desirable, for responsible leaderships it should not.
By reaching a final agreement, the EU3+3 can set a truly historic precedent that safeguards global security by containing Iran’s ability to actively pursue a weaponised nuclear programme. A final nuclear deal will also enhance confidence and create the political space needed for Europeans to re-engage Iran on the type of meaningful – and currently much-needed – human rights dialogue that existed in the past.
Crucially a deal should also reshape the west’s engagement with Iran by opening new options for pursuing overlapping regional interests – at a time when Europeans are again militarily engaged on Iran’s doorstep and when at least partial interests-based cooperation appears possible and necessary without ignoring the many instances in which Iranian and western positions continue to diverge.
Iran and the EU3+3 are closer than ever before to settling the nuclear file. The goals of non-proliferation, global and regional security, de-escalation of burning conflicts in the Middle East and the demonstrative effect of successful multilateral diplomacy in these troubled times will all significantly benefit if a good deal is achieved. All sides have the option to walk away from a nuclear deal but they will do so knowing that the alternatives are far worse when it comes to advancing their respective strategic interests and that there may never again be an opportunity as good as this one to seal a final nuclear deal.
Javier Solana Former EU high representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and secretary-general of the Council of the EU; former secretary general of Nato
Ana Palacio Former foreign minister, Spain and former vice-president and general counsel of the World Bank Group
Carl Bildt Former foreign minister, Sweden
Emma Bonino Former foreign minister, Italy
Jean-Marie Guéhenno President and CEO of International Crisis Group, former deputy joint special envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on Syria
Norbert Röttgen Chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Bundestag and former federal minister for the environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety
Robert Cooper Former UK diplomat and former counsellor of the European External Action Service
The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of its individual authors.