Possible nuclear deal with Iran near but difficult issues remain, US State Dept. says – Arab News

WASHINGTON: The US said Thursday that “a possible deal” on a new Iranian nuclear accord is close but several sticking points have prevented an agreement and time is running out.
Negotiators meeting in Vienna to try and salvage the 2015 nuclear deal, which is meant to prevent Tehran from acquiring an atomic bomb, have made “significant progress,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters, echoing other nations in recent weeks.
“We are close to a possible deal, but a number of difficult issues still remain unsolved,” she said.
“We will not have a deal unless we resolve quickly the remaining issues,” she added.
However, “if Iran shows seriousness, we can and should reach an understanding of mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA within days,” she said, using the acronym for the 2015 accord.
Enrique Mora, the European Union’s coordinator for the talks, also said they were in the “final stages.”
“Some relevant issues are still open and success is never guaranteed,” he tweeted, adding “we are definitely not there yet.”
The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed in 2015, secured sanctions relief for Iran in return for strict curbs on its nuclear program.
The agreement was between Iran on one side and Germany, China, the United States, France, Britain and Russia on the other.
The agreement unraveled when former US president Donald Trump withdrew from it, with Israeli encouragement, in 2018.
Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium has now reached more than 15 times the limit set out in the 2015 accord, the UN’s IAEA nuclear watchdog said Thursday.
The coming days are seen as critical by the West, which believes that the agreement could soon be irrelevant at the rate Iran is making nuclear advances.
Several observers believe that the West could leave the negotiating table and chalk the deal up to a failure if a compromise is not reached by this weekend.
Among the problem points, Tehran is calling for the closure of the IAEA’s investigation into the presence of nuclear material at undeclared sites.
IAEA Director General Rafael Gross, who has said the agency would “never abandon” its attempts to get Iran to clarify the previous presence of nuclear material at the sites, will travel to Iran on Saturday to meet with officials from the country.
ROME: The parliaments of the UAE and Qatar will become full members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, an international forum comprising representatives of the national parliaments of the Euro-Mediterranean region.
The inclusion of the UAE’s Federal National Council and Qatar’s Shoura Council will be formalized at PAM’s 16th plenary session on March 9-10.
It will be held in Dubai under the presidency of Italian MP Gennaro Migliore and hosted by the FNC.
PAM supports the work of other international bodies entrusted with fostering security, stability and peace in the Euro-Mediterranean region.
It will be the first time that PAM will meet in the Arabian Peninsula since the organization, which has observer status at the UN General Assembly, was established in 2005.
“Our vision is that peace, dialogue and cooperation in our Mediterranean region isn’t divisible, and the Gulf region isn’t far away from us,” Migliore told Arab News before traveling from Rome to Dubai.
In the past few years, both the FNC and the Shoura Council “have been very active in all the activities of the assembly, especially regarding initiatives on counterterrorism and de-radicalization, as well as women’s empowerment and energy transition,” he added.
Developments in the Middle East and North Africa — including Libya, Syria, Lebanon and Western Sahara — as well as those in Europe — such as Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina — will be on the session’s agenda, as will water scarcity, said Migliore.
“PAM has always been convinced that international parliamentary cooperation is the key to encourage national and international policymakers to harmonize legislative frameworks,” he added.
“This assembly is a unique platform for parliamentary diplomacy, promotes constructive dialogue and support initiatives.”
The role of parliaments, he added, “is every day more crucial for Mediterranean stability and cooperation because they can help to overcome issues and points of friction paralyzing governments in conflict or limiting their scope of action.”
The Russia-Ukraine conflict could have a knock-on effect in the Middle East due to the rapidly increasing prices of wheat and disrupted supply of other goods, the Daily Telegraph reported on Monday.
Analysts warn that violence could break out amid a 25 percent spike in the price of wheat, with Russia and Ukraine representing 14 percent of the global export market for the grain, and a similar percentage of the world’s corn market.
Wheat prices are up 37 percent since the start of the year, to levels not seen since 2008 and the last great global financial crisis.
BCA Research said the supply line from the Black Sea to the Middle East has become strained. 
Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are also among the world’s leading fertilizer exporters. With sowing normally beginning in late February, harvests in Ukraine could be severely disrupted.
BCA said state reserves abroad could quickly become depleted, and developments “could lead to civil unrest similar to the food riots that occurred during the Arab Spring in 2011.”
Lebanon imports 40 percent of its wheat from the region, and is currently in the grip of an unprecedented series of economic, social and political crises.
Risk advisors Dragonfly warned that the country has just one month of wheat reserves, and “hardship-related protest and unrest are likely.” 
War-torn Syria and Yemen are also likely to feel the knock-on effects of increasing prices and reduced supply.
Ukrainian authorities have talked up the prospect of using the country’s still largely functioning railway network to transport vital goods to other European ports for export. 
DUBAI: The UAE recorded 386 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, the lowest daily tally reported in weeks. 
The new cases bring the total number of recorded cases in the UAE to 883,270.
One person also died due to COVID-19 complications, the report added, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 2,302.
It also noted that an additional 1,203 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the overall number of recoveries to 844,308.
CAIRO: The UN’s top official for Libya on Monday called for lifting the production blockade at two oil fields including the country’s largest, as oil prices soared to over $130 a barrel.
Stephanie Williams, the UN special adviser on Libya, said blocking oil production from the Sharara and el-Feel fields “deprives all Libyans from their major source of revenue.”
“The oil blockade should be lifted,” she said on Twitter.
The closures have caused Libya’s daily production of oil to drop by 330,000 barrels, according to the state-run National Oil Corporation.
Before the shutdown, Libya’s production of oil was at around 1.2 billion barrels per day. The North African nation has the ninth-largest known oil reserves in the world, and the biggest oil reserves in Africa.
The closure cost Libya more than $34.6 million per day in lost revenues, the NOC said.
Company head Mustafa Sanallah blamed the shutdown on an armed group, led by Mohamed Bashir Al-Garg, in the mountainous town of Zintan, around 136 kilometers (over 84 miles) southwest of the capital, Tripoli.
Al-Garg, who also commands a force guarding oil facilities in the area, said the closures were due to “dire living conditions,” demanding authorities provide services to people in the region, according to local media.
The shutdown came as Brent crude, the international pricing standard, hit $139.13 per barrel before falling back Monday to be traded at $130.29 a barrel.
The growing increase of oil prices is a consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukriane, which sent shockwaves to the world markets.
DUBAI: The UAE has sent 30 tons of emergency medical supplies and other emergency aid to Ukraine to assist civilians, state-run WAM news agency reported Monday. 
The Emirates aircraft landed in Lublin, Poland, and the medical and relief aid were handed over to the Ukrainian authorities in Poland to be transported to Ukraine.
The statement said the step was in response to the international humanitarian appeal to support displaced Ukrainians and refugees in neighboring countries. 
The UAE‘s Ambassador to Ukraine Salem Al-Kaabi said: “Sending an aircraft with medical supplies and relief aid is part of the UAE’s steadfast commitment to essential humanitarian needs in conflicts involving civilians.”
The United Nations said Sunday there were so far more than 1.5 million refugees displaced by the war in Ukraine.