As negotiators from Iran and the 5+1 Powers prepare to adjourn after 16 days of discussions in Vienna, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has pointed towards the extension of the nuclear talks.
The two sides were hoping for a deal before the expiry of an interim agreement on July 20, but gaps on key issues — notably, Iran’s centrifuges for enrichment of uranium — prevented a resolution. The delegations are likely to agree on an extension of the interim agreement, with renewed discussions in September.
Zarif, speaking with CNN on Thursday in Vienna about the nuclear issue and the Iraqi crisis, indicated US-Iranian agreement on the extension:
I think we have made enough serious discussion for us to think about the feasibility of continuing these discussions. I think Secretary (of State John) Kerry made that recommendation. I have made the recommendation.
President Rouhani said at a meeting in Tehran on Thursday night, “If it becomes clear that the opposite side respects the Iranian nation’s rights and viewpoints within the framework of international law, we will continue the talks and if necessary extend the time for the negotiations.”
An anonymous Iranian negotiator told Mehr News that the extension is likely to be for three months.
In Vienna, Zarif repeated his standard line about “a historic opportunity for all of us” to reach an agreement, but “we are not there yet” because of “significant gaps”: “This must be a balanced deal. This cannot be an imposition.”
Asked about the Supreme Leader’s revelation of the details of the talks — in particular, Iran’s core demand for 190,000 “Standardized Work Units” from its uranium centrifuges — Zarif denied that Ayatollah Khamenei had set “red lines” for an agreement:
If you listened to what the Leader said, it makes it clear that our program has a peaceful logic….We are not talking about number to fool people. We are talking about numbers to fuel a nuclear power plant….That should give you the assurance that this is not for bomb-making.
And in a clarification which may or may not correct widespread mis-reporting on the talks, Zarif explained the Iranian call for 190,000 SWUs of enriched uranium for the Bushehr nuclear plant:
(The SWU) depends on the force of each centrifuge. It can be (from) 10,000 centrifuges. It can be 100,000 centrifuges. It depends on the advancement of each centrifuges. It’s something that produces 37 tons of uranium for that power plant.