Clock ticks on final deal with Iran

Clock ticks on final deal with Iran
A Western diplomat said yesterday that Iran had been given a 48-hour deadline to conclude negotiations on its nuclear programme.
4 min read
07 July, 2015
Talks between the foreign ministers continued deep into the night [AFP]

Talks on Iran's nuclear programme have entered a "final extension" phase according to one Western diplomat.

The source stated that talks are not "open ended" and "without any deadline", saying that a 48 hour cut-off point  is likely to be set.

Another diplomat said that an agreement could be "do-able" by Thursday night.

Earlier yesterday, the US announced that Friday would be the cut-off point to talks.

Reports that foreign ministers from five of the seven negotiating nations had left or will leave the Austrian capital, where talks are being held, indicate that it is now up to Iran and the US to reach a common understanding on how to end a 13-year standoff.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javid Zarif are said to have entered a "rough slog" at the negotiating table.

Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said the parties were still "un-agreed" on ten issues.

On Tuesday night, Iran called on world powers to drop a UN arms embargo on the country, saying it was an obstacle to reaching a final deal.

Iran's negotiator Abbas Araghchi said on state television that talks were almost finished, but that "Western nations must be prepared to give up sanctions".

"The structure of the sanctions must not stay in place. The P5+1 (US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany) must change their approach to sanctions if they want a deal," he said.

Yesterday, talks went deep into the night, but it became obvious that Tuesday's deadline for a deal - the fourth since an interim deal was struck in November 2013 - would be missed.

     US Secretary of State John Kerry is under pressure to present a deal to congress by Thursday.

In what has become a high-stakes game of diplomatic poker, the ministers met twice Monday with the Iranian delegation led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for a total of almost three hours.

Asked if Tuesday's deadline could slip, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: "I would say it's certainly possible."

State Department spokesperson, John Kirby, told reporters in Washington Tuesday was "not a deadline. It was an extension of basically seven days of the parameters" of a 2 April framework accord struck in Lausanne.

But he refused to be drawn on what might happen on Tuesday, insisting: "Everybody is still I think rowing on the oars here to try to get a deal done, but it's got to be the right deal."

An Iranian official also said Monday "July 7, July 8, we do not consider these as the dates we have to finish our job."

"Even if 9 July passes it will not be the end of the world," the Iranian said, asking not to be identified.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is under pressure to present a deal to congress by Thursday, so US lawmakers have 30 days to debate it.

If the accord comes later, then under a new law there will be a 60-day review period.

Despite progress on a series of complicated annexes, negotiations have been bogged down on how to ease sanctions against Iran, probing allegations that in the past Tehran sought to develop nuclear arms, and ensuring Iran can continue to have a modest, peaceful nuclear programme.

New IAEA visit to Iran

Seeking to resolve lingering suspicions that Iran before 2003, or maybe after, had sought to develop nuclear arms, UN nuclear monitors were in Tehran Monday.

     Western officials are clearly balking at any notion of allowing Iran to buy conventional weapons.

The 24-hour visit by experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency came after a similar trip last week by its director general Yukiya Amano.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said Monday's talks were a "major step" towards resolving outstanding issues and were "constructive and forward-looking".

The second IAEA visit "shows the serious determination of both sides to enhance cooperation", he said, quoted by the official IRNA news agency.

There was no immediate comment from the IAEA.

But in what appeared to be a new spanner in the works, the Iranian official said his country also wanted to ensure there was no renewal of a UN "arms embargo".

"There is no evidence that the arms embargo has any relation with the nuclear issue," the official said.

"The arms embargo should not be part of" the deal under negotiation, he said.

A fact sheet put out by the State Department after the April accord said that once a deal is reached there will be a new UN Security Council resolution to extend "important restrictions on conventional arms and ballistic missiles".

Western officials are clearly balking at any notion of allowing Iran to buy conventional weapons, at a time when it is accused of fomenting unrest in the Middle East.