|Zarif, Kerry meet for second day in Vienna||
TEHRAN – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna on Monday for a second day to discuss key issues which have slowed down the progress of ongoing talks between Iran and the major powers on Tehran’s nuclear program.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who represents the United States in the nuclear talks, accompanied Kerry in the meeting.
An Iranian diplomat told IRNA that the talks between Iran and the United States are “intense, comprehensive, and substantive.”
Zarif had held a two-hour meeting with Kerry in the Austrian capital on Sunday. On the same day, he also met with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague who had travelled to Vienna to help advance the talks, which are aimed at achieving a comprehensive deal to resolve the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program.
In his bilateral meetings with Zarif, Kerry wants to “gauge Iran’s willingness to make the critical choices it needs to make,” Reuters on Monday quoted a senior State Department official as saying.
“The secretary will take the time necessary to have that discussion, and that’s why they will be meeting again today, to see if progress can be made,” the official said.
Kerry said on Sunday there were still substantial gaps with Iran on how to reduce its uranium enrichment capacity.
Earlier, a senior U.S. official said Iran was sticking to “unworkable and inadequate” positions.
Zarif said on Sunday after his meeting with Kerry that “our team is ready to work with full speed during the seven remaining days in order to reach a comprehensive deal that can be acceptable for both sides.”
But a senior Western diplomat told reporters, “It will be difficult to have an agreement in a week.”
“The Iranians would have to budge on the key issues and very quickly. There are a lot of technical aspects that would be difficult to complete in a week,” the diplomat said.
Under an interim accord clinched last November, Iran and the major powers have set a July 20 deadline to clinch a long-term comprehensive nuclear deal. The deadline can be extended by another half year if both sides agree.
A senior U.S. official said on Saturday that an extension would be difficult to consider without first seeing “significant progress on key issues.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, after Sunday’s talks, European foreign ministers said while the discussions had been useful, Tehran must now choose whether it would take the steps needed for a deal.
“I think it has been good to have these meetings at ministerial level but there is no change in the state of play in these negotiations as of this moment,” Hague said.
Hague also said there is still “a huge gap” in particular between Iran’s demands for its future enrichment program and the position of Western governments that Tehran must scale back its activities.
Steinmeier said he could not predict whether an accord would be reached on time. He said now was the moment for Iran to show that they were ready to take steps to reach a deal.
“It is now up to Iran to decide whether they follow the path toward international cooperation or whether they want to remain in isolation,” he said.
Reuters also quoted Steinmeier as saying that Germany and other members of the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) have used all their powers of persuasion to convince Iran of the urgency of a proper deal in the coming days.
“This may be the last chance for a long time to peacefully resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program,” he said.
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