[Breaking news update, posted at 4:43 p.m. ET]
President Barack Obama on Saturday signed an executive order lifting some of the U.S. economic sanctions on Iran, the White House announced.The move follows the International Atomic Energy Agency saying Iran has completed the necessary steps in a deal to restrict its nuclear program.
[Previous article, posted at 4:30 p.m.]
Iran has completed the necessary steps in a deal to restrict its nuclear program, which now means international economic sanctions are lifted, U.N. and EU officials said Saturday.
“Relations between Iran and the IAEA now enter a new phase. It is an important day for the international community. I congratulate all those who helped make it a reality,” said Director General Yukiyo Ama of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
European Union Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini added Saturday that the economic sanctions against Iran were lifted now that the country has joined the U.K., U.S., E.U., France, Germany, China and Russia in “the field of peaceful users” of nuclear energy.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement confirming the IAEA has verified that Iran “has fully implemented its required commitments.”
Iran’s foreign minister arrived in Vienna on Saturday saying he was confident the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog would certify that his country was complying with the terms of a deal to restrict its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some international economic sanctions.
The International Atomic Energy Agency released its report Saturday assessing Iran’s compliance with an agreement with foreign powers, including the United States and the European Union.
Many observers expected the IAEA will corroborate Iranian compliance.
The release heralds “Implementation Day,” the formal name for the start of the next phase in the agreement called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which was hammered out with Iran in July. The new “Day” will mean the first wave of economic relief for Iran.
Before the announcement, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had already exuded confidence in a post to Twitter shortly after arriving in Vienna that the milestone has been met. “#ImplementationDay, it’s now time for all — especially Muslim nations — to join hands and rid the world of violent extremism. Iran is ready.”
#ImplementationDay, it’s now time for all—especially Muslim nations—to join hands and rid the world of violent extremism. Iran is ready.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 16, 2016
Zarif continued his exuberance in a subsequent posting later in the day.
“We’re getting to #ImplementationDay. Nothing serious. Diplomacy requires patience, but we all know that it sure beats the alternatives,” he said on Twitter.
We're getting to #ImplementationDay. Nothing serious. Diplomacy requires patience, but we all know that it sure beats the alternatives.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 16, 2016
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry arrived later and quickly went into a meeting with Zarif.
There was no report on what was said, but it is likely that they discussed how to implement the agreement and keep the process moving forward.
“I believe it’s not just an important day for economic activities in Iran. It is going to open the possibilities in Iran for economic engagement,” Zarif said. “What is more important is that it’s an extremely important day for diplomacy. Today is the day where we prove to the world that threats, sanctions, intimidation and pressure don’t work. Respect works. Through respect, through dialogue, we can reach mutually accepted agreements.”
Under the JCPOA, in exchange for lifting sanctions Iran is obliged to take steps to put it further away from developing a nuclear weapon while keeping a peaceful nuclear energy program.
In a possible sign of the thaw in relations, it was announced Saturday that Iran had freed four American prisoners, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, as part of a prisoner swap deal, according to Iran’s semi-official FARS news agency, which quoted the Tehran prosecutor.
Iran has various obligations under the nuclear agreement.
It must reduce its level of uranium enrichment, dramatically reduce the size of its stockpile of enriched uranium, reduce the number of centrifuges, and agree to unfettered international inspections.
But not all nuclear-related sanctions will be rescinded immediately — that won’t happen for about 10 years, should the deal hold. But this month’s milestone will mean Iran will be able to sell its oil again on world markets and its banks will be able to connect to the global system.