International sanctions on Iran will be lifted on 16 January, when the United Nations nuclear agency declares Tehran has complied with an agreement to scale back its nuclear programme, Iran's foreign minister said. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrived in Vienna, headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN body expected to issue a reporttriggering the lifting of sanctions imposed by the UN, US and European Union.
The report, if issued, would mark the consummation of the 14 July 2015 nuclear agreement. Under the deal, Iran agreed to shrink its atomic programme in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions, which would allow billions of dollars of investment to flow into the country.
"Well according to JCPOA (the nuclear deal), immediately after the release of the report by the IAEA verifying Iran's implementation, we have the implementation day, so we expect to have the implementation day today," Zarif said.
"I believe it's not just an important day for economic activity in Iran. It is going to open the possibilities, vast possibilities in Iran, for economic engagement and we have all seen that the international business community is very much interested in getting engaged in Iran to take advantage of it," he said.
"Today is the day when we prove to the world that threats, sanctions, intimidation, pressure, don't work. Respect works," he added.
Implementation day of the nuclear deal agreed last year marks the biggest re-entry of a former pariah state onto the global economic stage since the end of the Cold War, and a turning point in the hostility between Iran and the US that has shaped the Middle East since 1979. The IAEA is in charge of verifying that Iran has carried out all of the nuclear power-related steps required in the deal it struck with the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. It must release a report once it has done so.
Since July, Iran has drastically reduced the number of centrifuges installed at its enrichment sites, shipped tonnes of low-enriched uranium materials to Russia and dismantled the core of its Arak nuclear reactor. It is a defining initiative for both the US and Iranian presidents Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani, both of whom faced strong opposition from hardliners at home in countries that have called each other "Great Satan" and part of the "Axis of Evil".
As part of the deal, Iran has agreed to forego enrichment of uranium, which world powers feared could be used to make a nuclear weapon. Once sanctions are lifted, Iran plans to swiftly ramp up its exports of oil. Global companies that have been barred from doing business there will be able to exploit a hungry market for anything from automobiles to airplane parts.