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Javad Zarif: 'Sanctions have utterly failed'

We ask Iran's top diplomat what is really behind the positive shift in his country's position towards the West.

Last updated: 03 Dec 2013 15:51
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Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, is the man at the centre of Tehran's historic agreement on its nuclear programme.

The Islamic Republic has agreed to restrict its nuclear activities in exchange for a partial lifting of sanctions but says its ultimate goal is a permanent solution that would allow it to pursue a peaceful programme.

But there are sceptics - the Israelis describe the agreement as a "historic mistake" and many Arab countries - in particular Saudi Arabia - are worried Iran is simply trying to buy time.

The final settlement has two important segments: an Iranian peaceful nuclear programme including enrichment on Iranian soil, with the necessary provisions to ensure its peaceful nature and the removal of all sanctions .... These are the two important elements of the final deal.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's Foreign Minister

But Javad Zarif has his own thoughts on Tel Aviv.

"If this deal is to ensure Iran never produces nuclear weapons which is the aim of this deal and it is an aim that we share why should they [Israelis] be worried, other than the fact that they have been trying to use the smoke screen in order to evade and divert international attention from their atrocities against the Palestinians, their daily violations of most basic tenets of international law and the fact that they remain the single most important security threat to this region and to the world."

In response, Iran's top diplomat is on a charm offensive this week in the Gulf region after Oman's role in mediating the "secret" talks with the US.

"They were not secret back channels. We had discussions with the Americans on the sidelines of P5+1, extensive discussions, and these discussions produced this deal in addition to the very serious discussions we had within P5+1. Oman has played a significant role in the past with regards to clarifying position of the US on Iran," said Zarif.

Asked if sanctions have really dented Iran's nuclear activities, he says, "When sanctions started Iran had less than 200 centrifuges. Today Iran has 19,000 centrifuges so the net product of the sanctions has been about 18,800 centrifuges that has been added to the Iran's stock of centrifuges, so sanctions have utterly failed."

So, can Iran build bridges with its Arab neighbours? And will Javad Zarif attend talks in Geneva to resolve the Syrian conflict and help end more than two years of killings and destruction?

In this episode of Talk to Al Jazeera, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif talks about the recent nuclear deal, Iran-Arab relations and Iran's role in the Syrian conflict.

Talk to Al Jazeera can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0430 and 1930; Sunday: 1930; Monday: 1430.   

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