Marathon Iran nuclear talks go down to the wire


The Iran nuclear talks appeared to be focusing on sanctions Friday, as Iran dispatched an influential economist to join its negotiating team.Iranian state media reported that Mohammad Nahayandian, the chief of staff for President Hassan Rouhani, left Tehran for Vienna to join the talks with the European Union, the United States and five other nations. Nahayandian is an economist who was educated at George Washington University, and until recently he headed Iran’s Chamber of Commerce for Industries, Mines and Agriculture.

Nahayandian reportedly posted a photograph of an airplane on his Instagram account and asked for people’s prayers. The state-run IRNA news agency said he was Vienna-bound on a “special mission” to consult with Iran’s negotiating team.

The talks on sanctions came after some apparent progress earlier in the week on procedures that would allow international inspectors to gain access to a broad array of Iranian nuclear facilities, along with a possible way to bridge the gap between Tehran’s insistence on immediate lifting of sanctions once an agreement is reached, and U.S. insistence that Iranian compliance with all other terms of the deal first be verified.

Under the principle of “simultaneity,” provisions of the deal would not immediately take effect. Instead, both sides would take time to lay the groundwork for agreements on lifting sanctions and verification, to go into effect at a mutually agreed date.

Some issues related to verification, and how Iran will get rid of excess enriched uranium still in its possession, remain unresolved. Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), returned to Vienna Friday from Tehran, where he met with Rouhani and the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, Ali Shamkhani.

Amano said he had discussed issues related to the IAEA’s role in monitoring and verifying that Iran meets its obligations under a potential deal, as well as the agency’s still incomplete investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programs. Amanao said that “both sides have a better understanding on some ways forward,” but added that more work is needed.

The United States and other countries believe Tehran has worked to develop an atomic weapon, an allegation that Tehran has denied. After meeting Thursday with Amano, Rouhani said the agency understands the “pointless allegations” are “baseless”.
The talks that aim to rein in Iran’s nuclear program and lift sanctions have been extended for another week, with a new deadline set for Tuesday.

As foreign ministers from U.S. negotiating partners – France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany – have flown in and out of the Austrian capital, Secretary of State John F. Kerry has been a constant presence, apparently determined to remain to the end.

Kerry has cycled in and out of meetings with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, while his chief negotiator Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of State for political affairs, and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, hold their own meetings at a grueling pace.

Sherman and Helga Schmid, the deputy foreign affairs chief for the European Union, held a six-hour session that stretched until 3 a.m. Friday with two Iranian deputy foreign ministers, Abbas Araghchi and Majid Takht Ravanchi. The meetings are taking place at the swanky Coburg Palace hotel while Vienna swelters through a Europe-wide heat wave with temperatures reaching into the 90s and beyond.

On Friday morning, Moniz and Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Secretary, met for hours, and scheduled another session in the afternoon. Terse emails sent by State Department officials to waiting reporters scheduled a midday session between Kerry and Zarif, then rescheduled it for Friday evening, with no details provided.

The only other outward sign of progress were statements by some of the departing diplomats that they planned to return on Sunday. Although they warned that the talks could still fall apart, some projected optimism that a final deal is at hand.

“I have decided to return to Vienna on Sunday evening,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said as he left Vienna late Thursday night. “I hope that at that stage we will be in a situation to move, perhaps, and I hope so, to find a definitive solution that will enable a robust agreement.”

Source: Washington Post


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