Iran Shuttles Through Berlin-Paris Before Swiss Nuclear Meeting

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif hit his third European capital in two days during the latest bid to end a deadlock over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear work.

The country’s top diplomat met today in Paris with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his French counterpart Laurent Fabius. Zarif shuttled yesterday between Berlin and Brussels where he spoke to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

“There’s the shape of a deal taking place,” said Ian Kearns, director of the London-based European Leadership Network, a policy-advisory group led by former EU officials. “There are big diplomatic and economic interests at stake.”

World powers and Iran convene on Jan. 18 in Geneva for negotiations. Diplomats have until March 1 to create a political framework and July 1 to resolve details for an accord to end the 12-year-old stalemate that has raised the prospect of military conflict Iran.

“We affirmed our strong commitment to a diplomatic solution which would fully address international concerns about the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear issue,” Mogherini said late yesterday after her meeting with Zarif. “Negotiations have to be brought to a conclusion in line with the agreed time.”

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Officials missed their self-imposed November deadline to strike an agreement. Iran’s capacity to make nuclear material that could be used both to fuel reactors and make bombs, along with the pace at which Western nations remove sanctions against Iran, have been the top issues dividing diplomats.

“We are both of the same view that we cannot prolong the negotiations endlessly,” Steinmeier said yesterday in Berlin after meeting Zarif. “For that reason, we must really use the newly opened time frame.”

Today’s meeting with Zarif was Kerry’s second in three days. On Wednesday in Geneva the diplomats had substantial talks that touched on a broad number of issues, according to a State Department official who asked not to be named in line with diplomatic rules.

U.S. and Iranian diplomats continue negotiating today in Geneva. Officials from the China, France, Germany, Russia and the U.K. will join them next week.

Pressure has been mounting against a temporary accord still in force between Iran and the world powers. That agreement, won in November 2013, prevented Iran from engaging in its most-sensitive nuclear activities in exchange for limited sanctions relief.

U.S. Democratic Party and Republican Party lawmakers are considering a bill that would impose fresh sanctions on Iran. Such a move “would dramatically undermine our efforts” to reach a deal that would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power said Jan. 12.

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