Zarif, Kerry Seek to Bridge Nuclear Gaps

Zarif, Kerry Seek to Bridge Nuclear Gaps
Zarif, Kerry Seek to Bridge Nuclear Gaps

With only two weeks ahead of a November 24 deadline to work out a comprehensive settlement to the dispute over Tehran's nuclear program, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is meeting with his US counterpart John Kerry and former EU foreign policy chief in Oman as part of efforts to narrow the gaps in negotiating positions in broader nuclear talks with the major powers.

Zarif began talks with Kerry and European Union's envoy Catherine Ashton in Muscat on Sunday. The future scope of Iran's uranium enrichment capacity, the duration of any final agreement and the speed of lifting sanctions are among the issues for discussion.

The West has claimed that Iran may have been seeking to develop the capability to build nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear program. Tehran denies the allegation, saying its nuclear work is meant only for peaceful purposes, such as power generation.  

US, Iranian and Russian negotiators say there is still much work to be done, but have expressed cautious optimism that a deal is within reach.

  Sanctions Brought No Results

Upon arrival in Oman, Zarif met with his Omani counterpart in Muscat early on Sunday and said Iran has come to the negotiation table in "good faith". He added that Tehran has never pursued to weaponize its nuclear program and will never do so, IRNA quoted him as saying.

Also speaking to Iranian television on his arrival in Muscat, Zarif said anti-Iran sanctions have produced "no results" for the West.

“It is important for the West to understand that sanctions have never contributed to the resolution of this issue. Sanctions are not a part of solution rather they are the most important part of the problem. They’re illegal in nature. They must be removed. They have not produced any positive results. The only things that sanctions have produced for the West are about 19,000 centrifuges,” he said, referring to the number of uranium enrichment machines currently installed at Iran's nuclear facilities.

Reuters also quoted the top diplomat as saying, "We need to reach a solution based on mutual respect and cooperation. If the West is interested in reaching such a solution, there is possibility to find a solution and to reach an understanding before November 24."    

Following the two-day trilateral talks, Ashton will chair a meeting with political directors from Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) in Muscat on Tuesday.

 Majlis Statement

Meanwhile, over 200 members of parliament called for a complete removal of all sanctions against Iran. MPs also opposed the imposition of any further restrictions on the country's nuclear research and development program as well as inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency that go beyond the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In a statement, MPs urged the nuclear negotiating team to preserve national dignity and authority during their ongoing talks with the major powers, IRNA reported.