Nuclear Talks Intense

Nuclear Talks  Intense
Nuclear Talks  Intense

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met with US Secretary of State John Kerry and European Union's envoy Catherine Ashton on Monday for a second day of nuclear talks in Oman just two weeks before a self-imposed deadline to reach a settlement between Iran and the major powers on Tehran's nuclear program.     

There were no reports on the outcome of the three-way meeting until Financial Tribune press time. Iranian media said reporters were waiting in eager anticipation at Al Bustan Palace, the venue of the negotiations, late into evening.

The Fars news agency quoted Zarif as saying, "We will finally make progress."            

The Oman talks were aimed at narrowing the gaps in negotiating positions in broader talks between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) on a final comprehensive deal to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear activities by a November 24 deadline.  

The future scope of Iran's uranium enrichment capacity, the duration of any final agreement and the speed of lifting sanctions are among the major issues for discussion.                               

 Signs of Progress

Omani Foreign Minister Yussef bin Alawi told reporters on Monday, “Some progress had been made in the talks yesterday,” the Times of Oman reported.

“We were able to agree on the big issues and we expect to get a solution to some of the pending issues. They are still talking. They are still talking seriously on a number of issues and I hope they will reach an agreement,” Alawi said. Elsewhere, US President Barack Obama told CBS in an interview broadcast on Sunday that there was still a “big gap” between Iran and the Western powers and said “a deal could be out of reach.”

A final step would involve Iran providing “verifiable, lock-tight assurances that they can’t develop a nuclear weapon”, Obama said, adding, “There’s still a big gap. We may not be able to get there.”

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.

Obama also claimed that economic sanctions led by the United States have pushed Iran to the table for an agreement on its nuclear program.

Iranian officials have on various occasions rejected the claim that sanctions have brought Tehran to the negotiating table.

Zarif has 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.”

  Last Best Chance

Meanwhile, in an article published on Monday, the Associated Press described the ongoing negotiations between Iran and the major powers as the “last best chance” for the Obama administration to meet an end-of-the-month deadline for a deal. The AP also said such a deal could silence skeptical Republicans who will control the US Congress next year and are able to scuttle it. Republicans seized control of the US Senate in the midterm elections last week for the first time in eight years and in the two final years of Obama’s presidency.

Analysts speculate that with the change of leadership at the Senate and the GOP’s dominance over the House of Representatives, Republicans may now seek to impose new anti-Iran sanctions and even revoke a possible deal that may be reached by November 24 after the end of Obama’s term. Iran and the P5+1 are engaged in talks to build on an interim accord they reached in Geneva last November to work out a long-term settlement to the nuclear dispute, which would impose temporary constraints on Tehran’s nuclear work in exchange for the phasing-out of sanctions.

Ashton, who coordinates the nuclear talks on behalf of the P5+1, is expected to chair a meeting with political directors from Iran and the major powers today in Muscat.