June 30, a preset deadline for a comprehensive agreement on the Iran nuclear issue, slipped away, without reaching a deal. This was a worrisome scenario. In high anticipation for such an agreement, all parties concerned agreed to extend the deadline to July 7 so as to give negotiations one more chance and more time for negotiators. This was a breath of relief for all. Foreign ministers from the parties involved have rushed to Vienna and are making the final moves to conclude a comprehensive agreement.
No doubt, if a deal could be concluded on the Iran nuclear issue, it would be constructive in safeguarding the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, be helpful in defending the stability in the Middle East, and also set a good precedent for settling complicated international disputes through political talks. While such a deal would be in the best and common interest of the international community, it would also mark an important and win-win step for the United States and Iran, the two major players at the core of the nuclear issue.
All parties have shown strong political will in reaching a comprehensive agreement and are vigorously working toward this common goal. After having solved many difficulties one after another, they are now just one step away from an agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue. It is learned that the last step mainly involves three hard nuts to crack — how to ensure regular inspections of the Iranian nuclear facilities by international inspectors; how to deal with and dispose enriched uranium Iran has already possessed; and the timetable for lifting sanctions on Iran.
The Iranian nuclear issue has a direct and pivotal bearing on the US-Iran relations while the US-Iran relationship will directly affect the complicated Middle East situation. If the talks finally end without an agreement at such a stage when so much progress has already been made, there would be no winner, and it would mean a catastrophic ending for the US and Iran. If that happens, Iran would continue to be isolated, and the US would possibly feel pressure from both inside and outside. The Middle East situation is still very fragile, and a failure in the Iranian nuclear talks could trigger unpredictably grave chain reactions and consequences, and will do no good to regional stability and world peace.
On the domestic front in the United States, with the presidential election approaching, if the negotiations end to no avail, the Iranian nuclear issue will naturally lead to more debates in the Congress and the US will likely lose the chance of preventing Iran from possessing nuclear weapons through peaceful means. Iran will also come under domestic political and popular-will pressure. For the Hassan Rouhani administration, which has been advocating reforms and reconciliation with other countries, whether or not there is an agreement will have a direct bearing on the stability of its ruling foundation. On the one hand, an agreement on the nuclear issue will help appease the Iranian conservatives, and prompt them to believe that a new political style of cooperation will be beneficial in safeguarding the achievements of the Islamic Revolution. At the same time, the agreement will lead to the lifting of decades-long sanctions imposed on Iran. This conforms to and reflects the will of the Iranian people, and will no doubt bring benefits and welfare to the people. The Iranian nuclear talks have gone on for 12 years, and progress has been extremely difficult and slow.
The current stage of negotiations naturally reminds people of the ice-thawing beginning in the more than 30 years of confrontation and cold war between the US and Iran — the first direct telephone conversation after the 1979 Iranian Revolution between President Barack Obama and President Hassan Rouhani on September 29, 2013. It is safe to say that this landmark conversation helped lay the foundation for reaching a comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue at an early date. The world is undergoing fast and far-reaching changes, and dialogue, not confrontation, between leaders of the two countries conforms to the current trend. All progress already made in the negotiations is valuable and laudable. At present, Iran and the Western nations, headed by the US, need to further consolidate their political mutual trust, and this will help facilitate the conclusion of the agreement and the final solution of the Iranian nuclear issue.
China has always been a strong advocate for a peaceful settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue through talks, has been promoting such negotiations with a pragmatic attitude, has been vigorously seeking a mutually beneficial and win-win solution to the issue, and has been working hard to create conditions for a comprehensive, enduring and proper settlement. For this purpose, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was accompanying Premier Li Keqiang on his visit to France, changed his itinerary and immediately headed to Vienna to lend a helping hand at the talks. Every step counts on any long journey. A proper solution to the Iranian nuclear issue is what the international community has been looking forward to. At present, Iran, the US and all parties concerned need to build up political mutual trust: this is the key to a peaceful settlement. The international community is pinning high hopes on the final efforts in Vienna, and is anticipating for a historic agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue.