PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Iran’s top technical negotiator Ali Akbar Salehi on Friday (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)
UPDATE 1015 GMT: Conflicting reports are circulating about the state of discussion of a draft “preliminary” agreement of two to three pages.
Citing “senior Iranian and Western officials”, Reuters reported the draft on Friday and said Iran and the 5+1 Powers were nearing an agreement.
However, a leading member of the Iranian delegation, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, told Iran State news agency IRNA that there been no discussion of such an accord.
A Western diplomat who gave the original story to Reuters and dismissed Ravanchi’s remarks as incorrect and aimed at a domestic audience.
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has arrived in Lausanne to “advance a robust agreement” built on “transparency and a monitoring mechanisms to ensure that it is respected”.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is also now in Switzerland for a lunch-time meeting with Kerry and Fabius.
A “senior US State Department official” said Friday night that “tough decisions” by Iran are necessary for a resolution in the nuclear talks in Switzerland.
The official briefed journalists that a deal by an informal deadline of March 31 would not be reached unless Tehran made concessions:
Yesterday’s and today’s talks have been tough and very serious. We’re at that point in the negotiations where we really need to see decisions being made. We will test whether that is truly possible over the next several days.
The official spoke after the second day of meetings, led by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and US Secetary of State John Kerry.
The same official had been optimistic on arrival in Lausanne on Wednesday night, saying the Obama Administration saw “a path forward” for an agreement by Tuesday.
Hamid Baeedinejad, a senior member of the Iranian team, confirmed that issues in dispute with the 5+1 Powers (US, Britain, France, Germany, and China) include the timing of the lifting of US-led sanctions and Iran’s retention of research-and-development uranium centrifuges in the Fordoo enrichment plant.
Baeedinejad said it was the US and its allies that must compromise: “If the other party makes proper political decision, the Islamic Republic has shown enough flexibility in negotiations and now is the other side’s turn to coordinate a final decision among themselves to make a final solution possible.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif also retreated from earlier optimism, “We think an agreement is still possible, but when is another story.”
American allies bolstered the line that Iran had to make concessions. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on a trip to Washington, “It is going to require a significant move by the Iranians to reach our redline.”
Hammond said that, rather than reaching a formal agreement, Iran and the 5+1 might issue separate statements next week.