Iran Talks Continue As Deadline Looms
July 13, 2015
Diplomats from Iran and six world powers were continuing their talks in Vienna on July 13 in a bid to reach a final nuclear deal that brings sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for curbs on Tehran's nuclear program.
The diplomats have said they are close to reaching a deal by a July 13 self-imposed deadline, but they warned there was no guarantee. Meanwhile, Iranian media and reporters in Vienna quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying that negotiations will not end on July 13.
In the latest in a flurry of meetings on July 13, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini met for high-level talks.
Iran and the six world powers are expected to hold a ministerial plenary meeting this evening.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said there was still a chance of announcing a deal in the coming hours.
When asked by reporters in Vienna whether there could still be a deal on July 13, Lavrov said: 'There's always a chance.'
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said July 13 that he could not promise 'whether the remaining issues can be resolved tonight or tomorrow night.'
'Some issues still remain unresolved and until they are solved, we cannot say an agreement has been reached,' said Araqchi, who added he was hopeful a deal would be clinched.
Iran's President Hassan Rohani is expected to address the nation on state television when the nuclear talks have concluded, IRNA reported, quoting an official at the presidential office.
'No one is thinking of another extension,' Alireza Miryusefi, a spokesman for the Iranian delegation, said on Twitter. 'Everyone working hard to get to yes today, but political will [is] still required.'
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters on July 13 upon his arrival in Vienna that there 'cannot and should not be further delay' in clinching a deal.
'China believes that no agreement can be perfect and conditions are already in place for us to reach an agreement,' he said.
Iranian media quoted Rohani as saying on July 12 that the sides were 'very close' to a deal.
'We are so close that if you look down from below you feel as if we have got there, but when you do get there you know there are still some steps to take,' said Rohani.
The foreign ministers from Iran and the world powers were all expected to be present in Vienna on July 13.
After more than two weeks of negotiations in the current round of Vienna talks, including three extensions of a self-imposed deadline for clinching a deal, Zarif said on July 12 that the deadline will not be extended again beyond July 13.
Leaders of the diplomatic delegations continued talks at a working dinner on July 12 that lasted until about 11:25 p.m.
Those at the working dinner included Kerry, Mogherini, and Lavrov, as well as French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond left Vienna earlier on July 12 but was expected to return to the Vienna talks on July 13.
All sides have said they are close to reaching a deal. But Kerry said after meeting with Zarif on July 12 that "major issues" still must be resolved.
The arrival of Lavrov at the Vienna talks on July 12 was seen by some observers as a sign that a deal could be close at hand.
Mogherini said on Twitter that these were the 'decisive hours.'
Western official have said that Iranian and U.S. negotiators would need time to consult their capitals once an agreement was reached.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other congressional leaders were expressing doubts about a historic agreement with Iran -- predicting that President Barack Obama could face hurdles in Congress.
McConnell said: "This is going to be a very hard sell for the administration."
Because the deadline for a deal has been extended three times during the Vienna talks, Congress now has 60 days to assess the deal and Obama is obliged to wait for that review before easing sanctions.
During those two months, Republican lawmakers could try to build a veto-proof majority behind new legislation that could impose new sanctions on Iran or prevent Obama from lifting the existing sanctions.
Such a development could effectively derail any final deal that might be reached in Vienna.
Global powers and Iran are seeking a deal that would limit Tehran's nuclear activities, making it harder for Iran to develop nuclear weapons, in exchange for relief from UN, U.S., and EU sanctions that have harmed its economy.
Under a framework agreement reached in April in Lausanne, Switzerland, Iran is required to cut the number of its centrifuges from more than 19,000 to just over 6,000.
It also is required to cut back its stockpile of enriched uranium -- which can be used to make a nuclear bomb if enriched to a high enough level -- from more than seven tons to about 350 kilograms.
The aim is to ensure that it would take Iran at least a year to acquire enough fissile material to build a nuclear bomb.
But the diplomats at the talks in Vienna have been negotiating over the issue of exactly how to implement the Lausanne guidelines.
The negotiations also have faltered over the issue of granting UN nuclear inspectors access to military sites in order to investigate suspicions that Iran sought to develop nuclear weapons in the past.
The speed of sanctions relief has been a sticking point, and there are disagreements over a longstanding an arms embargo and a ban on Iran's ballistic missile program.
Iran's nuclear program has been a source of tension for over two decades. Negotiations bore little fruit until an interim agreement was reached in November 2013.
With additional reporting by Hannah Kaviani of RFE/RL's Radio Farda in Vienna, Reuters, AP, AFP, ISNA, Interfax, TASS, and BBC
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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