Diplomats ended talks over Iran’s nuclear work without bridging the most significant gaps separating the Persian Gulf country from world powers.
The sides will convene on July 2 in Vienna, European Union spokesman Michael Mann said in a statement. Political directors from China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and U.S. will gather June 26 in Brussels to discuss their positions, he said.
“The other side is not ready for real bargaining,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said yesterday in a broadcast press briefing from Vienna. “The other side has not entered negotiations with serious will.” Zarif said there was still the “possibility” of reaching an agreement when the delegations next meet.
Diplomats have set a July 20 deadline to strike a permanent accord that would set limits on Iran’s nuclear work in return for lifting sanctions. The U.S. wants Iran to reduce its uranium-enrichment capacity. The government in Tehran, with the world’s No. 4 proven oil reserves, wants the option of expanding its nuclear-fuel work in the future.
“What is still unclear is whether Iran is really ready and willing to take all of the steps necessary to assure the world that its nuclear program is and remains exclusively peaceful,” U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman said at a news briefing in Vienna. She said the round had been “constructive” and that more difficult haggling lies ahead.
The two sides presented “a number of ideas on a range of issues, and we have begun the drafting process,” Mann said. “We’ve worked extremely hard all week to develop elements we can bring together when we meet again in Vienna.”
Both sides are staking out positions heading into the final rounds of the negotiations, Greg Thielmann, a former U.S. diplomat at the Washington-based Arms Control Association, said in a telephone interview.
“We would naturally like to see everything dismantled and ground into dust,” Thielmann said. “However, the real risk is that we will walk away from some sort of deal that is better than nothing.”
At the talks this week, Iran invoked a 2005 proposal that would have capped its installed centrifuges at 3,000. That deal was rejected by European diplomats who wanted zero enrichment. Iran has expanded the number of the fast-spinning machines installed to 19,000, even as sanctions undermine its economy.
“Some progress is being made in Iran talks,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a comment on Twitter today. “But huge challenges remain and Iranian political will is the key requirement.”
While the sides have the option to extend their interim accord by six months, failure to reach a deal by July could embolden hardliners on both sides. The U.S. Congress has threatened to impose new sanctions, while, absent a deal, Iran said it might move to restart nuclear activities that are currently suspended.
“The opportunity with Iran represents one of the most significant for American diplomacy in this century,” Thomas Pickering, a former U.S. undersecretary of state and ambassador to the United Nations, said in an e-mail. “The potential strategic gains for the U.S. and the region are real.”