Iranian FM: Progress made in Geneva talks, gaps still exist

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who is busy with high-profile meetings with his counterparts from the Group 5+1 (the US, Russia, France, China and Britain plus Germany) announced that his talks have yielded progress but some differences still exist between the two sides.

“There has been some progress, but there is still a gap,” Zarif told reporters in Geneva on Saturday.

He made the remarks before starting his second trilateral meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and US Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva on Saturday to discuss the contents of a draft agreement which includes confidence-building measures to end more than a decade-long nuclear standoff between Iran and the West.

Zarif, Ashton and Kerry held their first round of talks at Ashton’s office at the EU building of the UN offices at 18:30 (local time) on Friday which lasted for about five hours.

Prior to the second trilateral meeting today, Zarif also had quadrilateral talks with Ashton and his German and French counterparts.

None of the top diplomats has yet spoken about the contents of their debates yet.

But Zarif’s Deputy Majid Takht Ravanchi, who is also a senior member of the Iranian team of negotiators, told reporters in Geneva Friday afternoon that the draft agreement has been prepared and would go under debate by the three top diplomat in their trilateral meeting in Geneva.

“The text of the draft agreement has been prepared and initial negotiations (over it) will take place in a trilateral meeting among Zarif, Kerry and Ashton,” Takht Ravanchi said.

On Friday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and senior negotiator in the talks with the world powers Seyed Abbas Araqchi said the much expected agreement over the settlement of Iran-West nuclear standoff will not include a stop of Iran’s enrichment activities, although he said size and form of Iran’s enrichment could be touched in the final deal.

As expectations are high for the attainment of a deal between Iran and the six world powers, Araqchi said that the text of the expected agreement will include all the three sections of Iran’s proposed plan wherein the final goal and the elements of the first and last steps will be clearly mentioned, including the confidence-building measures.

He said that experts talks at different levels are underway, and added, “Once an agreement is reached on the text of the deal, the first step will begin and in case of the text of a final statement is finalized, Zarif and Ashton will hold a joint press conference.”

Araqchi underlined that the final statement, which will be on the basis of the agreement, will include confidence-building measures by the two sides.

“Enrichment is among the Iranian nation’s principles and basic rights, and Iran will not give up its rights, but we are ready to negotiate over the size, form and dimensions of enrichment,” he added.

He said since most sanctions on Iran have been imposed by the US, “US Secretary of State John Kerry’s presence in the talks was necessary for a final deal”.

Araqchi, who was speaking to reporters after a second meeting between Zarif and Ashton in Geneva on Friday, explained that the Zarif-Ashton meeting lasted one hour and the two sides discussed continuation of talks, specially at experts level, and how to approach an agreement on the final text of a deal.

“The negotiations have now reached a sensitive and complicated stage which requires their pursuit at higher levels,” the senior Iranian negotiator said.

He said Ashton has invited Zarif to attend a trilateral meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry for talks on the text of a final agreement and discuss the remaining issues.

Araqchi said that the Iranian foreign minister will also have bilateral meetings with British, German and French foreign ministers who have arrived in Geneva to join the talks.

“Zarif will also meet with the Russian and Chinese deputy foreign ministers,” he added.

Araqchi told FNA Thursday night Zarif and Ashton along with a few experts from the seven parties to the talks would meet for a final meeting in Geneva on Friday.

But the change of plans and the unexpected attendance of French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius along with that of Kerry, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has fuelled speculation that an agreement is in the making.

By Fars News Agency


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