On 2 April the P5+1, the European Union and Iran agreed to a framework for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA framework) regarding Iran's nuclear programme. Further detail on the JCPOA framework can be found in the document "Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding the Islamic Republic of Iran's Nuclear Program" released by the US White House.

In parallel, the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif issued a Joint Statement on the JCPOA, distributed by the European Union External Action Service. 

Key obligations on Iran under the JCPOA framework

Under the JCPOA framework Iran has agreed to limit certain aspects of its nuclear programme in return for the relaxation of the sanctions regime imposed on the country.

Key points of the agreement reached include the following:

  • Enrichment: Iran has agreed to reduce by approximately two-thirds its installed centrifuges and has agreed not to enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years.
  • Fordow and Natanz: Iran will not enrich uranium at its Fordow facility for at least 15 years. Additionally, Iran will only enrich uranium at its Natanz facility using first generation (less advanced) centrifuges for ten years.
  • Arak: Iran has agreed to redesign and rebuild a heavy water research reactor in Arak based on a design agreed to by the P5+1, which will not produce weapons grade plutonium and which will support peaceful nuclear research and radioisotope production.
  • PMD: Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the concerns of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding the 'Possible Military Dimensions' of its nuclear programme.
  • Transparency: IAEA will have regular access to all of Iran's nuclear facilities, including the Fordow and Natanz facilities, for up to 25 years in certain cases.

It is also intended that the UN Security Council will pass a resolution endorsing the JCPOA and encourage its full implementation. In return for the obligation on Iran above, the arrangement provides for sanctions relief, as detailed below.

Sanctions relief

The JCPOA framework provides that Iran will receive sanctions relief in return for abiding by its commitments under the JCPOA. In addition, and as a potentially separate ground for relief, once the IAEA verifies that Iran has completed all key nuclear-related steps agreed to, the US and EU will suspend nuclear-related sanctions. It is also made clear, however, that should Iran fail to comply at any time, the sanctions will immediately resume.

Under the JCPOA framework, all past UN Security Council resolutions on the Iran nuclear issue will be lifted simultaneously with the completion by Iran of the key obligations on it as listed above.

Current state of play for sanctions on Iran in the EU

Iran has been subject to a number of sanctions in the past years, pertaining respectively to proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities relating to Iran's nuclear programme and human rights abuses.

The most significant sanctions have been imposed in response to Iran's nuclear programme. In the EU, these were given effect under Council Regulation 267/2012 and Council Decision 2012/413/CFSP. This set of sanctions imposes numerous key sectoral and other prohibitions such as the ban on the export and import on goods and technology related to nuclear enrichment or weapon systems; the ban on Iranian banks to open branches and create joint ventures in the EU (and vice versa); and the prohibition on certain financial transfers between EU persons and Iranian persons unless specifically authorised in advance.

Harneys advises extensively on all aspects of the Iranian sanctions regime as applicable in the European Union and the United Kingdom Overseas Territories.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.