|Calm, positive atmosphere prevails in Iran nuclear talks||
VIENNA – Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi says he is hopeful that Iran and the major powers will be able to prepare the initial draft of a comprehensive nuclear deal in the current round of talks in Vienna, which is being held in a calm and positive atmosphere.
The senior nuclear negotiator made the remarks during a press briefing with Iranian journalists on Tuesday night after the end of the first day of a new round of talks between Iran and the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) on the decade-old dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program.
In response to a question by the Tehran Times reporter, Araqchi said, “We had in fact very useful exchanges of views and discussions on almost each and every question on the table. The atmosphere was good and very positive.
“All parties are serious enough to work hard in order to come to a conclusion and bridge the gaps which still exist. This is what we are doing and hopefully by the end of this round of negotiations we hope that we can come to a text which its format will be at least acceptable to all parties. This is what we are trying to do,” he said.
In response to a question by another reporter, he said, “This is a problem we are facing in general that some parties in the 5+1 group still have some illusions and still stick to the positions which belong to the past.
“We advise them that a solution can be possible only if all sides try to be realistic, avoid illusions, avoid positions which cannot be achieved, avoid maximalist positions, try to be realistic, try to understand the concerns of the other side, and most importantly try to stick to the goal of the negotiations, and the goal of the negotiations as set by the Geneva agreement is to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. If anything rather than that is asked or is followed by any parties that would not get us to anywhere.”
Elsewhere in his remarks, Araqchi said, “Actually we are in the process to start drafting, hopefully from tomorrow (Wednesday)… We tried to make our approaches closer to each other so we can start drafting the text. We hope that we can start drafting and we hope by the end of this round of negotiations we have the text in our hands although with lots of brackets and differences still existing in the (initial) text, but we think that would be a good progress if we can achieve a text by the end of this round of negotiations.”
On Wednesday, delegations of Iran and the 5+1 group were engaged in intense negotiations. Helga Schmidt, the deputy of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who coordinates the talks on behalf of the six major powers, and Araqchi were involved in Wednesday’s talks.
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.
EU spokesman Michael Mann told reporters after the opening meeting of the talks on Tuesday that the plenary session “was focused on the elements of the text of a possible final agreement.”
The Chinese representative in the talks said on Tuesday that a compromise is crucial for a final deal by the July 20 deadline, according to Xinhua.
Wang Qun, the director general of the Department of Arms Control of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, told reporters a compromise is crucial and Iran’s uranium capacity would be the core issue in the talks.
“There are winners and losers in football matches. For negotiations, compromises and win-win situations are more important,” Wang said, adding political courage and decisiveness are needed for “scoring a goal” when necessary, if all sides are to strike a comprehensive deal by the deadline.
When asked about Iran’s redesigning of the Arak nuclear reactor which would lower the plutonium output, Wang said the modification shows Iran’s good faith in resolving the issue.
Reuters also quoted Western and Iranian officials as saying on Wednesday that Iran is refusing to significantly cut the number of centrifuges it intends to keep to produce nuclear fuel.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome, six-power diplomats said, is Iran’s stance regarding its uranium-enrichment centrifuges, which one negotiator described as a “huge problem”.
“The Iranians have not yet shown a willingness to reduce their centrifuges to an acceptable number, making it difficult to envision a compromise at this point…,” the negotiator told Reuters. Another Western official close to the talks confirmed the remarks as accurate.
A senior Iranian official appeared to confirm the assessment.
“Our Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) has set a red line for the negotiators and that cannot change and should be respected,” he told Reuters. “Uranium enrichment should be continued and none of the nuclear sites will be closed.
“What the West offers Iran on the number of centrifuges is like a joke and unacceptable,” he continued. “However, negotiation means trying to overcome disputes and it is what both sides are doing.”
A senior U.S. official said on Monday that all disagreements must be cleared up for a long-term settlement with Iran to be clinched. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
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