Negotiator Holds Out Hope for Nuclear Deal

Negotiator Holds Out  Hope for Nuclear Deal
Negotiator Holds Out  Hope for Nuclear Deal

A senior nuclear negotiator expressed cautious optimism over the outcome of the ongoing talks between Iran and the major powers on a final resolution to the 12-year standoff over Tehran's nuclear program.  

Speaking to reporters after the second day of talks between deputy foreign ministers of Iran and the US in Geneva, Abbas Araqchi said, "We have never lost optimism…despite the difficulties and hurdles ahead of us, we remain hopeful about the outcome of these talks."

"There are differences of opinion over various issues and narrowing such gaps takes a lot of time," Fars news agency quoted Araqchi as saying on Friday.

Araqchi and Majid Takht-Ravanchi met on Friday with US Acting Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and William Burns, former deputy secretary of state. Iranian and US delegations are set to continue two-way talks until today. On Sunday deputy foreign ministers from other members of the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) will join the talks in Geneva.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry met in Paris on Friday as part of diplomatic efforts to speed up the talks on a nuclear accord.  Friday's meeting between Zarif and Kerry was the fourth time they sat together to discuss Iran's nuclear program in just a few days. They met for about eight hours in Geneva on Wednesday. Zarif was expected to meet with his French Counterpart in Paris Laurent Fabius in Paris.

Zarif also conferred with European Union foreign policy Chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels on Thursday. The EU said in a statement that they both agreed that time cannot be wasted in trying to secure an agreement, Reuters reported.

"We affirmed our strong commitment to a diplomatic solution which would fully address international concerns about the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear issue," said Mogherini. "Negotiations have to be brought to a conclusion in line with the agreed time."

Mogherini's predecessor Catherine Ashton is the EU envoy to the nuclear talks. The EU has been coordinating the meetings between Iran and the six major powers. Zarif had earlier travelled to Berlin to hold discussions with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The German foreign minister said the nuclear talks are in a "decisive phase," adding, "We must now use the newly opened time window, we must leave nothing undone to reach the solution that has eluded us in recent years."

Iran and the six powers (the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany) missed a deadline last November for clinching a comprehensive deal to resolve the long-running nuclear dispute. The new deadline for a long-term nuclear agreement is June 30.

The future scope of Iran's uranium enrichment capacity and the speed at which the sanctions would be lifted are among the thorniest issues in the talks.