Iran and six other countries agreed to extend nuclear talks until Nov. 24 after the latest round of negotiations failed to result in a permanent deal.
Iran will continue to limit nuclear activities in exchange for relief on sanctions as the push for an accord continues, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said at a briefing today in Vienna.
Discussions between Iran and China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and U.S. that had been going on for 16 days faltered earlier this week after negotiators couldn’t close an impasse over the Persian Gulf country’s uranium-enrichment work. A failure to reach a permanent deal would again put the U.S. and other countries on a collision course with Iran over the Islamic republic’s potential to build nuclear weapons.
“While we’ve made tangible progress on some of the issues,” there remain “significant gaps on some core issues that will require more time and effort,” Ashton said. Diplomats will reconvene in the weeks ahead, she said, without specifying a date. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the extension allows Iran to access another $2.8 billion of frozen assets. In return, the Islamic Republic pledged to restrict the amount of uranium it enriches.
The U.S. won’t allow “anything less than a comprehensive resolution that meets our objectives, which is why it is necessary for negotiations to continue,” according to a White House statement.
U.S. President Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, said this week that enough progress had been made to warrant an extension. The delay will push negotiations closer to the one-year anniversary of the historic Sept. 28 phone call between Obama and Rouhani, where the two leaders pledged to try finding a peaceful solution to the decade-long nuclear conflict.
“The haggling that has been going on over the details of the extension reflect that the U.S. and Iranians have domestic constraints and at least need to reflect the image that they are sticking to their guns,” said Ellie Geranmayeh, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, in an interview. “The real hurdles will come over the coming months.”
Diplomats have to adopt a “gung-ho attitude” to reach an agreement, China’s Wan Qun said. It’s possible that compromises could be struck by the United Nations General Assembly in September, he said.
“No one can afford to lose again in the next four months,” Wan said. “There will be not more extensions.”
France and Germany warned Iran that talks shouldn’t continue indefinitely and that the country needs to show good will by cooperating with international inspectors.
“France hopes that this additional time will allow Iran to finally make the indispensable choices that will lead to an agreement,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the coming months may be the “last and best” opportunity to end the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.
“Talks can’t go on forever,” Steinmeier said in a statement. “Iran needs to show that it’s willing to clear up all doubts about the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.”