UPDATE 1815 GMT: Sunday’s plenary between Iran and the 5+1 Powers appears to have made little progress in closing the gap on key nuclear issues.
Journalist Laura Rozen tweets:
Clear that everybody is a little deflated & disappointed more progress not made at this round of #irantalks but trying to push forward
— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) January 18, 2015
Iran and the 5+1 Powers resume nuclear talks in Geneva on Sunday, amid signs from the Iranian side that they are in trouble.
Iran and the 5+1 (US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia) are convening after bilateral meetings between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (pictured) and his counterparts — including US Secretary of State John Kerry — and three days of talks between the Iranian and American delegations.
However, Zarif was negative on Saturday: “The policies of pressure and dialog are mutually exclusive….If Western countries intend to negotiate with Iran, they should make a political decision, which might be difficult for some, and cease applying pressure.”
The lead Iranian negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, has said that the talks have been “tense” and “difficult”, with significant points of dispute remaining. On Saturday, he tried to maintain some possibility of resolution, while putting the burden on the 5+1: “We still hope and think that reaching an agreement is possible if the other side has the necessary determination and goodwill.”
However, Araqchi said “problems” and “difficulties” remained in the negotiations: “The distances are very wide over certain cases and in some other cases the gaps are very narrow, and we are trying to narrow down the distances between the two sides.”
No details have been released of this week’s discussions. The key issue remains the number and level of Iran’s centrifuges for uranium enrichment, linked to the removal of US-led sanctions on Tehran; however, the Iranians also said this week that the status of its nuclear facilities, including the Arak heavy-water reactor and the Fordoo enrichment plant, must still be confirmed.
The two sides failed to complete a comprehensive agreement last November, instead extending interim arrangements to July 1.
Picture: Reports of Serious Injury of Head of Qods Force Are Premature
Mashregh News posts a photograph of General Qassem Soleimani, the head of the elite Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guards, to dispel rumours of his serious injury in Iraq:
Claims on social media asserted that Soleimani, who has been prominent in his work with Iraqi forces against the Islamic State since last June, was injured in the defense of Samarra, about 70 miles north of Baghdad. The Iranian Foreign Ministry finally responded this week with a denial.