Displaying items by tag: negotiations
On 29 November, senior diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia met Iranian officials in Vienna to discuss bringing Tehran back into compliance with the 2015 deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which eased sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear programme. The talks could pave the way for the US to rejoin the accord. Israel is making efforts to stop a return to the previous agreement and prevent implementing an interim agreement, a plan the US is considering as a stop-gap if a full agreement cannot be reached. The nuclear talks resumed with upbeat comments despite Tehran's negotiating team demanding that all US and EU sanctions imposed since 2017, including those unrelated to its nuclear programme, be removed.
Last week you prayed for the UK to settle the debt they owe to Iran, so that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe can finally be released from prison. Please keep praying. This week the UK and Iran are in discussions over the £400m that the UK owes for failing to deliver tanks Iran bought in the 1970s. Nazanin believes she has been imprisoned as leverage for the debt. Boris Johnson said ministers were doing ‘everything we can to look after her interests and all the very difficult dual national cases we have in Tehran’. On 1 May Iranian state TV suggested the UK had paid the debt - but the Government said nothing had changed.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been sentenced to a further year in prison and a one-year travel ban after being found guilty of joining a London protest twelve years ago and speaking to the BBC Persian service. Her husband said she has not been taken to prison yet; she plans to appeal against the sentence. Mr Ratcliffe said, ‘The threat is there, and it is bigger than we were fearing. I think the worst case got a bit closer.’ He maintains that his wife was imprisoned as leverage for a debt owed by the UK over its failure to deliver tanks to Iran in 1979; also, her case may be caught up with the negotiations over limiting Iran's nuclear material enrichment. Her sentence may indicate that the Iranian regime is unhappy with the negotiations taking place in Vienna. Things could get worse for Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other jailed dual nationals.
Last week we prayed for the nations to work towards ending Iran’s history of making weapons-grade nuclear material in underground facilities while denying their existence. This week the USA has joined talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal which the Trump administration abandoned in 2018. Acting as intermediaries, officials from the UK, France, and Germany are shuttling between two hotels in the Austrian capital. Diplomats from the two other remaining parties, Russia and China, are also attending. President Biden has said he wants to return to the landmark accord. But the six remaining states need to find a way for him to lift the sanctions imposed by his predecessor and for Iran to return to the agreed limits on its nuclear programme. Iran has said it will not meet the USA face to face until that happens.
Stripping away the spin in both the UK and EU, the prospects of a deal feel very slim at present. In the next few weeks everything rests on intense negotiations behind the scenes. The process is unlikely to be straightforward as this is all uncharted territory. Please continue to pray for God to direct every conversation around this challenging situation. Pray for everyone to be creative and able to keep the basis of negotiations on level ground. Political observers say that if they wanted to, the EU and the UK could, in theory, come up with an agreement outside EU law. Meanwhile the UK and USA are in talks over a mini trade deal to reduce tariffs. Pray for the success of post-Brexit deals with Washington. Pray for God to pave the way for excellent future communications between US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and the UK international trade secretary Liz Truss. See
Michel Barnier has warned Brexit trade talks could be plunged into ‘crisis’ if Boris Johnson puts forward more legislation that calls into question last year's divorce deal. The Brussels diplomat is worried that the Finance Bill will contain clauses that breach the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol. He was infuriated when No 10 tabled legislation that handed ministers the powers to rip up sections of the Withdrawal Agreement relating to Northern Ireland. Mr Barnier made the warning during a video call with EU27 ambassadors. At the time of writing the future UK-EU relationship is still deadlocked because of disagreements over post-Brexit fishing rights and common standards, and Downing Street has yet to decide on a timetable for publishing the Finance Bill. Talks went on late into the evening on 2 December at the business department in central London. See
Ursula von der Leyen said the EU is willing to be ‘creative’ to get a deal with the UK and that European interests will best be served by leaders backing any compromise that emerges. There is concern among member states that the UK might successfully push the commission into making concessions which will give British businesses an advantage in the marketplace over the decades to come. Ms von der Leyen said she trusted Michel Barnier’s ‘skilful steer’. The EU’s chief negotiator is expected to go to London on 27 November in a last-ditch push for an agreement. ‘These are decisive days for negotiations with the United Kingdom’, von der Leyen said; ‘I cannot tell you today if in the end, there will be a deal.’ She said the commission’s negotiating team was open-minded as to how to bridge the gaps between the two sides, but that they were holding firm on key principles.
Britain's chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost told Boris Johnson to expect a Brussels trade deal around 24 November. However, talks could still collapse over fishing and red tape, with both sides urging the other to ‘get real’. A diplomatic source said, ‘You can expect some strong words from leaders that the EU will be operating in a no-deal scenario within days and the Commission has been tasked to activate contingency planning’. (see) There is a sense of desperation to get a deal sorted. Robin Walker, junior minister for Northern Ireland, told Parliament, ‘There remain important outstanding issues to be resolved’ The justice minister has urged that a Brexit deal be agreed, warning of a potential ‘organised crime bonanza’. There are huge uncertainties for justice agencies with just weeks to go until the end of the transition period. It is not just the future security partnership that affects policing and justice in Northern Ireland, it is also the economic decisions that are made.
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church in Ireland, the Irish Council of Churches, and the Roman Catholic Church have insisted it is in everyone’s interests to achieve the clarity and security a Brexit agreement will provide. They have also reaffirmed their commitment to protect the 1998 Good Friday Agreement - which established a new era of non-violence in Northern Ireland following 30 years of brutal sectarian conflict. The group stated, ‘We do not underestimate the challenges faced by the negotiating parties in terms of the complexity and the significance of what is at stake. As church leaders on the island of Ireland, we have welcomed the important commitment of both parties in the negotiations to the protection of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement in all its parts. We hope that the agreement will serve as a source of inspiration and a foundation to build upon, as we continue to work through the Brexit process.’
The ex-supreme court president, Lord Neuberger, has warned that Boris Johnson’s law-breaking Internal Market Bill is taking the UK down a ‘very slippery slope’ towards dictatorship. In a virtual meeting with Britain’s top lawyers, he described it as ‘quite extraordinary’. He said the bill - which the Government admits will break key parts of the existing Brexit withdrawal agreement - sought to do away with one of the most important aspects of any democratic society. ‘This country has a remarkable, unbroken history of 350 years of observing the rule of law, and has an enviable reputation for that.’ He added, ‘Once you deprive individuals of the right to go to court, to challenge the government, you are in a dictatorship, you are in a tyranny.’ However, for the time being, Brexit trade deal negotiations have moved on and to avoid a damaging no-deal scenario, EU officials could negotiate until mid-November