The hopes expressed by Portugal earlier this year of an agreement on nuclear enrichment between Iran and the world’s major powers looks like coming to fruition.
Under an historic framework arrangement with the United Nations
still regarded by some as a pariah state, has agreed to limit its nuclear
programme. Security Council, Iran
Critics, most notably
Israel, Saudi Arabia and Republicans in the United States, believe the deal shows far too much
leniency towards .
That is not Iran ’s
to curtail uranium enrichment in exchange for the phased lifting of
international sanctions. Iran
It is clear that Iranian scientists have the engineering capability to enrich their stockpile of uranium to the high level required to make nuclear weapons. The agreement may not change that capability, but it will entice
to stick to its stated
intention of limiting enrichment to the level needed to generate electricity
from nuclear power. Iran
The deal so far is only an unwritten preliminary understanding. A formal, comprehensive accord is expected at the end of next month.
It will lead to the lifting of nine years of UN sanctions and isolation that have crippled
Both the EU and the Iran US have
indicated they will start to lift sanctions as soon as the IAEA verifies that is
complying with its side of the bargain. Iran
During the last few months of tough diplomacy featuring the United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and the UK, Portugal has been quietly promoting bilateral relations and expanding co-operation with Iran on cultural, scientific, sports and tourism fronts.
On a visit to
in late January,
Portuguese Foreign Minister Rui Machete met with Iranian President Hassan
Rouhani and with cultural and business leaders. Tehran
Machete said that all countries, including
were entitled to have access to civilian nuclear technology. In the foreign
minister’s words, Iran
“totally encouraged” the intensifying talks aimed at a negotiated solution. Portugal
Iranian Culture Minister Ali Jannati said there was “a solid base for expansion of bilateral relations and the two countries can promote their all-out co-operation in the next years.”
A memorandum of understanding was signed under which the
of Lisbon and the
will establish educational and research exchange programs for students and
professors. Direct flights between University of Tehran Lisbon and were among the
other subjects discussed. Tehran
The proposals were all relatively modest but still highly significant as this was the first visit by a Portuguese diplomatic delegation to
in 40 years. Iran
Machete commended President Rouhani for all the reforms the Iranian leader had undertaken. “Hassan Rouhani has succeeded in depicting a new image of
Iran on the international scene and highlighted ’s role in
the region by increasing relations and proposing initiatives,” Machete said. Iran
The visit was seen as a turning point in bilateral relations and the highlight was the observation by both Rouhani and Machete that
and Portugal could provide a
bridge between the Middle East and Europe.
In a loosely related move a month earlier,
parliament had passed a motion to join other legislative assemblies in the EU
as an independent and sovereign state. The motion noted that negotiations
between Israelis and Palestinians were essential if security and peace in the
region were to be realised. Palestine
All this must now be seen in the context of the widening and worsening situation across the
The re-election last month of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyanhu has done nothing to increase the likelihood of Palestinian statehood or lessen Palestinian-Israeli distrust.
In their bid for greater influence in the region, Iran and its archenemy Saudi Arabia continue to fuel sectarian violence in Iraq, Syria, Jordan and most recently Yemen.
Foreign Minister Rui Machete and
President Hassan Rouhani in