Bilateral Nuclear Talks in Zurich

Bilateral Nuclear Talks in Zurich
Bilateral Nuclear Talks in Zurich

Diplomats from Iran and the United states held talks on Friday in Zurich, Switzerland to discuss ways to narrow differences as part of efforts to reach a comprehensive settlement on Tehran's nuclear program.

Senior negotiators Abbas Araqchi and Majid Takht-Ravanchi met with US Acting Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman who is heading the American delegation. It was the second time the Iranian and US delegation sit together in just two weeks. It is expected the talks to continue until today.  

EU political director Helga Schmid is representing the European Union in this round of talks.

On Friday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif discussed the latest developments in nuclear negotiations with EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini on phone.

Zarif who was in Switzerland to take part in the 45th World Economic Forum in Davos, cancelled his planned meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry and other counterparts from the P5+1 (five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany) in order to attend an official memorial service for the late Saudi King Abdullah due to be held in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Saturday.

Zarif and Kerry had met for about an hour in Paris to follow up on a lengthy meeting on Wednesday in Geneva in search of an agreement.  

Representatives from Iran and the P5+1 are set to meet again in early February.

They failed in November to meet a self-imposed deadline for clinching an elusive agreement to resolve the long-running dispute over Tehran's nuclear work. The two sides agreed to extend the talks for seven more months until June 30.   

Under the 2013 preliminary nuclear accord with the major powers, Tehran agreed to temporarily scale down parts of its nuclear activities in exchange for a limited easing of sanctions.

Nevertheless the US congress is weighing new  sanctions against Iran.  

Last week, US President Barack Obama warned lawmakers not to trigger new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, vowing to veto any new sanctions legislation. He also said such a move would upset diplomatic talks and increase the likelihood of a military conflict with Tehran.

Meanwhile, four leading European foreign policy officials on Thursday, in an opinion piece published in the Washington Post, warned that new sanctions legislation against Iran could torpedo efforts to secure a long-term agreement with Tehran aiming to end a decade long standoff with the West.

The plea which appeared to be directed at the Republican-controlled US Congress, was made by British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

"Introducing new hurdles at this critical stage of the negotiations, including through additional nuclear-related sanctions legislation on Iran, would jeopardize our efforts at a critical juncture … rather than strengthening our negotiating position, new sanctions legislation at this point would set us back," the European officials commented.