Momentum built toward a historic nuclear deal, with Iran and negotiators giving themselves until July 7 to draft the text of a final agreement.
Following a two-hour meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said only “procedural” issues needed to be addressed. The U.S. and Europe formally extended the terms of their interim agreement with Iran in order win time to settle on a deal.
“The situation is moving in the right direction,” Lavrov told journalists at the Palais Coburg, where talks convened for a fourth day. “We have every reason to believe that the result is within reach.”
For Iran, holder of the world’s fourth-biggest oil and second-biggest natural-gas reserves, an agreement would mean the lifting of trade and financial sanctions that have hobbled its economy. For the U.S. and Persian Gulf nations wary of Iran’s influence, it would restrict the Islamic Republic’s ability to make nuclear weapons and give monitors early warning if it ever tried to do so. Iran says its program is entirely peaceful.
In Washington, where Congressional suspicion of an agreement runs high, President Barack Obama told reporters he’d reject a deal that wasn’t sufficient.
“I will walk away from the negotiations if in fact it’s a bad deal,” Obama said. Even if an accord is struck, the “deep” divisions between the U.S. and Iran won’t disappear overnight, he said.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi echoed that sentiment, the Iranian Students News Agency reported Wednesday.
“All the delegations have the will to progress but this doesn’t mean that the delegations, including ours, are ready to have an agreement at any cost,” said Araghchi, who’s part of Iran’s negotiating team. “The deal must be a good deal, and a good deal means that it will respect the principles, framework, and red lines set by the Supreme Leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he said.
Earlier Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, accompanied by the brother of President Hassan Rouhani and other senior officials, rejoined nuclear talks after getting a boost from Khamenei.
In a show of support, Khamenei posted a picture on Twitter of Zarif and Iran’s envoys to the talks dressed in white scientists’ coats. “I recognize our negotiators as trustworthy, committed, brave and faithful,” Khamenei said in an accompanying statement.
Get Details Right
Zarif, who left the Austrian capital on Sunday for talks at home over remaining hurdles to an agreement, also met with Lavrov and with Yukiya Amano, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The one-week extension of the November 2013 interim agreement, which gave Iran limited sanctions relief in return for freezes on its most sensitive nuclear work, follows repeated warnings by diplomats that they would miss the June 30 target date.
“It is more critical to take the time to get the details right than meet self-imposed deadlines,” Kelsey Davenport, a director at the Washington-based Arms Control Association, said in an interview in Vienna. “This indicates the political commitment to reaching a good deal, acknowledges how far the negotiators have come in reaching solutions on difficult issues and the increasing support for a good agreement on both side.”
Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported that foreign ministers from all the countries involved in the talks have scheduled a joint meeting in the Austrian capital on July 5 for what may be their conclusion.
For more, read this QuickTake: Iran’s Nuclear Program