Iran, US, EU Hold Nuclear Talks

Iran, US, EU Hold Nuclear Talks
Iran, US, EU Hold Nuclear Talks

Negotiators from Iran, the United States, and the European Union held a trilateral meeting in Vienna on Tuesday in a bid to narrow differences in negotiating positions in broader nuclear talks between Tehran and the six major powers.

Deputy Foreign Ministers Abbas Araqchi and Majid Takht-Ravanchi, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, and Helga Schmid, the deputy of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, were present at the meeting.  

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Ashton, who coordinates the talks on behalf of the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), also held a working dinner on the same day.

Michael Mann, spokesman for Ashton, told RIA Novosti before the start of Tuesday's meetings, "There will be a bilateral (meeting) between Ashton and Zarif followed by a trilateral. The aim is to make progress on the key elements of the talks."

"On Tuesday there will be a meeting of deputy chief negotiators of US, EU and Iran to prepare for the following day contact between the principals," he said.

Zarif, Ashton, and US Secretary of State John Kerry will also meet in the Austrian capital today to help advance international diplomacy on Iran's nuclear issues.

Iran and the six major powers (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany) are trying to build on an interim nuclear accord they reached in Geneva last November to hammer out a long-term settlement to the dispute over Tehran's nuclear program, which has dragged on for over a decade.

The final deal would impose temporary constraints on Iran's nuclear work in exchange for a phased lifting of sanctions.

Under the Geneva agreement, Iran agreed to scale down its nuclear activities for six months in exchange for limited sanctions relief. The talks and the interim deal were extended for four months in July to provide more time and space for achieving a comprehensive solution.

The latest round of high-level talks between Iran and the six powers, which was held in New York from September 19 to 26, did not make any significant progress.

The main stumbling blocks in the talks are the future scope of Tehran's uranium enrichment program, the mechanism of lifting sanction, the duration of the final deal, the underground Fordo uranium enrichment facility, and the planned Arak heavy water reactor.

****Paving the Way for Final Agreement    

Upon arrival in Vienna, Zarif told reporters that the Vienna talks can "pave the way for reaching a final agreement."

"It is unlikely that we can reach an agreement in this round of talks because there are many issues that should be sorted out," Zarif said.  

"As the president said, there is a general understanding of the issues, but the discussions in recent rounds of talks have been on details, such as the volume of enrichment and the mechanism and timetable for lifting the sanctions, which are very important and vital," he added.  

"We hope that the other side can find a solution which benefits all parties through accepting the realities on the ground in the region and world and the realities of Iran's nuclear program, which is an advanced peaceful program."    

****Nuclear Deal Certain

In a televised address to people on Monday evening, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran and the major powers will certainly reach a final nuclear deal.

"On the nuclear issue, the two sides will certainly reach an agreement and the agreement will be based on a win-win formula," IRNA quoted him as saying.

He also said, "The final agreement would be a great achievement. Now there is consensus with the P5+1 on generalities and they have recognized Iran's nuclear rights… but there are differing views on details."

"There is no dispute over Iran's right to enrichment and the world has accepted the right."

"It is not yet possible to say exactly when the final agreement will be achieved, but there is no doubt that we will not return to the situation a year ago."

"We are determined to settle the issue and believe that the issues can be resolved within the stated time frame."

"The world has accepted that Iran should have nuclear technology and that the issue should be resolved through negotiation."

****Breathing Room

Araqchi said last week if Iran and the major powers were not able to make progress in the Vienna talks, it would not be possible to clinch a nuclear deal by the November 24 target date.

He also said if the talks failed to reach a conclusion, the negotiations might be extended. But later a US State Department official said Washington believed there was still time to reach a comprehensive solution by the target date.

A former Obama administration official said it would make sense to extend the temporary accord if there was no long-term deal by late next month, Reuters reported.

"The continuation of an interim agreement would provide the breathing space needed for all sides to take an extended break from negotiations over a permanent deal," Jofi Joseph, a former director for non-proliferation on the White House National Security Council staff, wrote this week.