PHOTO: US and Iranian delegations in talks in Switzerland last week
UPDATE 1430 GMT: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry are about to enter their second meeting of the day. The political and technical teams of Iran and the US have joined them in the discussions.
A member of the Iranian team restated that Zarif is still opposed to a two-stage agreement — as proposed by the US — with a General Framework by March 31 and a comprehensive settlement by July 1. The Iranians continue to insist on a full and final one-stage resolution.
Earlier Iran’s lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, said that the Iranians “had detailed discussions with the US” and will meet other members of the 5+1 Powers this evening.
Araqchi said it was possible that other Foreign Ministers will join Zarif and Kerry tonight or tomorrow.
The head of Iran’s technical team, Ali Akbar Salehi, has told reporters in Lausanne, “On the whole I am optimistic…but internationally those who have an interest in more troubles and not dealing with this question have not been inactive. They are trying to make sure there is no deal.”
Nuclear talks between Iran and the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia) resume in Switzerland on Thursday, less than a week before an informal deadline for a comprehensive agreement.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet US Secretary of State John Kerry in another attempt to close the remaining gaps between the two sides. Last week, Iran and the US — joined at the end by the other 5+1 Powers — held five days of discussions in Lausanne.
While both sides said progress was made, each also said there were still significant differences to be resolved. Issues include the number and level of Iran’s centrifuges for uranium enrichment; research and development of advanced models to replace the 40-year-old operating centrifuges; the timing of the removal of US-led sanctions; and the duration of the agreement.
Senior US officials overseeing sanctions have joined the political and technical teams for today’s discussions.
Foreign Minister Zarif said on Wednesday that Iranian negotiators will “exhaust all options” to completely remove sanctions. Hevowed to continue to implement the guidelines of the Supreme Leader: “This is what the government has insisted on from the beginning,”
Iran is asking for quick removal of sanctions as soon as a deal is agreed. The US has said the process will be “gradual”, implying that it will take years.
Last week, France took an even harder line on sanctions removal and on the duration of the agreement, causing tension within the 5+1 and prompting Iran to adjourn the talks until today.
Both Iran’s lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, and Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s technical team, spoke on Wednesday of hopes for resolution: “A dignified agreement with an honorable win-win position is the means to achieve the slogan of the year in the field of diplomacy.
Another senior negotiator, Majid Takht-e Ravanchi, said that “one or two essential items remain on which we hope to reach a conclusion”. He added:
I hope we reach a conclusion, of course this depends on the other side accepting reality. The other side should know that if they want to reach a conclusion, they must set aside the politics of sanctions.
(Hat tip to Iran Tracker for translations)