Nuclear Talks Extended 7 Months

Nuclear Talks  Extended 7 Months
Nuclear Talks  Extended 7 Months

Iran and its international negotiating partners agreed on Monday to extend the talks on a final nuclear deal for another seven months until July 1, 2015, just hours before an earlier self-imposed deadline to reach a comprehensive settlement to the 12-year dispute over Tehran's nuclear program.

The news came following a meeting between Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his counterparts from the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) in Vienna.

During a week of intensive negotiations between Iran and the P5+1, diplomats close to the talks had predicted that the parties might decide on an extension of the talks.   

Reuters quoted western diplomats as saying that they were aiming to secure an agreement on the substance of a final accord by March but that more time would be needed to reach a consensus on the all-important technical details.

"We have had to conclude it is not possible to get to an agreement by the deadline that was set for today and therefore we will extend the JPOA to June 30, 2015," British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told reporters at the end of the talks.

He was referring to the so-called Joint Plan of Action which was signed between Iran and the six major powers (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) in Geneva in November 2013, under which Iran agreed to temporarily scale down parts of its nuclear work in exchange for limited sanctions relief.  

The British diplomat also said the two sides have "made some significant progress" in the latest round of talks, which began last Tuesday in the Austrian capital.  

Hammond said there was a clear target to reach a "headline agreement" of substance within the next three months and talks would resume next month.  

No place has been set for the venue of the upcoming talks next month but sources suggested the talks could take place again in Oman. In addition Tehran will be able to continue to access around $700 million per month in sanctions relief.

Reuters also quoted an Iranian official and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as referring to "substantial progress" made in the talks.

The deadline for a deal, agreed in July when the two sides missed an earlier target date, was Monday.

***Big Gaps Remain

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi who arrived in Vienna on Monday had earlier said that Iran and the six powers will "eventually reach" a pact but he added that there are "a large number of professional and technical issues that still require careful and complex discussion."

In addition German Foreign Minister Frank Walter-Steinmeier also spoke of a deep divide between Iran and the six powers, saying they were "still far apart on many issues".

President Hassan Rouhani was expected to address the nation on Monday following the announcement of the extension of nuclear talks. He was also scheduled to hold a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.