West Hopes for Concessions in Nuclear Talks

West Hopes for Concessions in Nuclear TalksWest Hopes for Concessions in Nuclear Talks

Western powers are hoping for concessions from Tehran that could help clinch a political agreement in nuclear talks this week after the United States and European powers voiced a willingness to compromise on lifting UN sanctions, officials said.  

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Monday to try to break the logjam ahead of a crucial round of talks between Iran and the six major powers (the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany).

Kerry has urged Iran to take decisions now to enable them to clinch a political framework agreement for a nuclear deal with Tehran that would lift sanctions in exchange for temporary constraints on Tehran's nuclear program ahead of an end-March deadline. The parties have set a June 30 deadline to finalize an accord.

Kerry told CBS news on Saturday he hoped "in the next days" it would be possible to reach a preliminary political deal with Iran if Tehran can show that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Iran denies it nuclear program may have any military objectives, saying the work is solely for peaceful purposes.

It is not yet clear when the talks between Iran and the six powers will begin in Lausanne.

Reuters reported last week that the United States and five other powers and Iran have begun talking about a possible draft resolution to endorse any future deal and address the lifting of UN sanctions. The UN sanctions could be eased quickly in the event of an agreement, western officials said.

Officials close to the talks said this was a major new concession on the part of the United States, which had long insisted that UN sanctions would remain in place for years to come after a nuclear deal was signed, while unilateral US and European measures might be lifted more swiftly.

"This was a quite a shift in the US position and we hope the Iranians will follow with concessions on their end," a western official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "So far the concessions have been mostly one-sided, though there has been some limited progress recently."

  Verbal Understanding

Reuters also said Iranian officials have privately welcomed the new position on UN sanctions in the talks on the part of the United States and France. Diplomats say the other members of six power group back the idea of a swift lifting of UN nuclear sanctions if there is a deal, though they caution that many UN restrictions would stay in place.

"Iran knows that it will not happen overnight, but the fact that it is being discussed at the (six powers') capitals and having a resolution is a sign of their willingness to resolve the issue," a senior Iranian official told Reuters.

Officials on both sides of the talks said it will be very difficult to get a political agreement this week. Reuters quoted Iranian officials as saying that a signed agreement this week is unlikely, though they do not rule out some kind of verbal understanding.