VIENNA – Iran and the major powers resumed a new round of political-level nuclear talks in Vienna on Tuesday in pursuit of a final agreement to resolve the decade-old dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who coordinates the talks on behalf of the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), attended the opening session of the talks which was held at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna on Tuesday morning.
EU spokesman Michael Mann told reporters after the opening meeting that the plenary session “was focused on the elements of the text of a possible final agreement.”
He also said that the most important thing is that the major powers are fully committed to working hard in order to try to reach an agreement with Iran.
In addition, Mann said the atmosphere of the talks was “good” and “workmanlike”.
Before the start of the talks on Tuesday, Iranian nuclear negotiators held bilateral consultations with Russian and Chinese delegations.
Zarif holds talks with IAEA chief
Zarif also held a meeting with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano on cooperation between the Islamic Republic and the UN nuclear agency.
After meeting with senior Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi, Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who represents Russia in the nulclear talks, told reporters that their meeting was constructive and excellent.
He also said that the process of drafting the text of the final deal has almost started.
In the previous round of political-level talks in Vienna in May, Iran and the major powers made little progress in building on the landmark interim nuclear deal they clinched last November in Geneva and did not reach the point to start drafting a final deal.
Under the Geneva deal, Iran agreed not to expand its nuclear program for six months in exchange for limited sanctions relief. The agreement came into force on January 20. Iran and the major powers have set a July 20 deadline to clinch a long-term nuclear deal. The deadline can be extended by another half year if both sides agree.
Zarif said on Monday that there is still enough time for Iran and the major powers to strike a comprehensive nuclear deal before the July 20 deadline.
“We believe that we have enough time. This meeting will end just about a month before our first deadline, so we still have time. We are not in a hurry. We believe if there is political will, we can finish it on time” Zarif said.
He also said, “I believe if there is the necessary readiness, political will, and good faith in order to address serious issues and take serious decisions, then we are prepared to move forward.”
Diplomatic sources have told Reuters that it is increasingly likely that the deadline for the talks will be extended. But Western officials insisted the focus remained on sealing the deal by late next month, noting that any extension must be agreed by all sides and would likely be short.
“If there is an extension it will be for a few weeks,” a diplomat from one of the six powers told Reuters.