Zarif Stays in Vienna to Push for Progress

Zarif Stays in Vienna to Push for Progress   Zarif Stays in Vienna to Push for Progress

An unnamed official close to the ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and the major powers in Vienna told IRNA on Friday that discussions on proposals have not reached a stage that necessitates Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to return to Tehran for consultations with senior officials.       

"Zarif will not go to Tehran and the talks will continue," the official said, adding, "Various proposals have been put forward since the latest round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) in Oman, however, those ideas need to be further developed."   

IRNA quoting a member of the Iranian delegation at the Vienna talks had earlier reported that Zarif "will return to Tehran tonight (Friday) for consultations and exchange of views with top officials."

Russian News Agency TASS also reported that Iran received new proposals from the major powers, adding that Zarif will discuss them with Tehran via "secure communications." The top diplomat arrived in the Austrian capital on Tuesday to meet with senior diplomats from the P5+1 to push for a comprehensive nuclear deal ahead of a self-imposed November 24 deadline to settle the standoff over Tehran's nuclear work.

 FM Meets Counterparts   

On Friday, Zarif held discussions with US Secretary of State John Kerry, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. German foreign minister was also expected in Vienna on Saturday.  A day earlier, Zarif held talks for two hours with Kerry and European Union envoy Catherine Ashton. The Trilateral meeting came after talks between Iran and representatives of the six powers – the US, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany.

US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said John Kerry will leave the talks in Vienna on Friday to meet with European partners in Paris.  "He will also stay in close touch with his inter-agency colleagues in Washington," Psaki said.         

“His future travel schedule is still being finalized, and we have not yet determined when he will return to Vienna,” Reuters quoted her as saying.

 Extension Likely

Iran and its negotiating partners are 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.             

The Geneva deal took effect on January 20 and was to expire six months later. However, Iran and the major powers agreed in July to extend their talks on a final deal and continue implementing the interim accord four for more months as they remained divided on a number of key issues. Diplomats say another extension of the talks is the most likely outcome of the Vienna meeting.  They also say Iran and the powers may agree the outline of the future accord, but it may take weeks or months to work out details.

Officials with the knowledge of the talks have said that a deadline for resolving the 12-year-old dispute over Iran’s nuclear program may be extended from Monday until March because what they described as “sharp disagreements between Tehran and world powers.”

The timing for lifting sanctions and future scope of Iran’s uranium enrichment are the two main stumbling blocks. Iran wants all key sanctions on oil exports and banking terminated almost immediately. However, the West has offered gradual easing of anti-Iran sanctions until Tehran could provide guarantees that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.  

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.   

A western diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity that “Some kind of interim agreement at this point is likely, or perhaps at best a framework agreement by Monday that needs to be worked out in the coming weeks and months.”

Reuters also quoted an unnamed Iranian official close to the talks who had similar expectations.

“We need more time to resolve technical issues and don’t forget that the time frame for lifting sanctions is still a huge dispute,” the official said, adding that an extension until March was a possibility. Western officials also suggested March was an option, with a resumption of talks in January.