Foreign ministers meeting in Vienna to discuss Iran’s nuclear program have failed to advance the faltering talks. The target date for a deal is now only a week away.
Seven days before the July 20 deadline to strike a deal, foreign ministers have failed to advance talks with Iran. An accord would end worries that the country might develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian program.
“There has been no breakthrough today,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Sunday. “There is a huge gap,” Hague added.
The discussions have so far focused on imposing long-term restrictions on Iran’s uranium enrichment and tightening those already in place on plutonium production, both of which can lead to the manufacture of nuclear warheads. Several sticking points remain.
Iranian leaders say their nuclear program is to produce reactor fuel. However, US officials say increased uranium enrichment could lead to the manufacture of nuclear missiles.
As French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Sunday, “Positions are still far apart.”
‘In Iran’s court’
Should Iran end enrichment activities, the US and other powers would permanently scrap a series of trade and oil sanctions. Many of these were lifted following an interim agreement in November that was contingent upon a deal being reached by the July 20 deadline.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he and his colleagues had made clear in meetings that “the ball is in Iran’s court.” He added:”It is now time for Iran to decide whether they want cooperation with the world community or stay in isolation.”
The lack of progress means that the countries could continue negotiations until July 20 and then decide to extend their talks past that informal deadline for a deal. Such an agreement would buy time to negotiate a pact limiting the scope of such programs in exchange for a full end to nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi suggested that any extension would prove relatively short, saying “there is not much willingness” by either side to go a full six months. He, too, has spoken of “huge and deep differences.”
As part of the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the European Union – China and Russia have also sent officials to negotiate with Iran, though their foreign ministers are attending another meeting in Brazil.
mkg/hc (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)