The US and Iran will resume nuclear talks in the Swiss city of Geneva on Friday, according to the lead Iranian nuclear negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi.
Araqchi said he would meet his US counterpart, Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, in another effort to advance towards a comprehensive nuclear settlement by a July 1 deadline.
Despite an intensive effort last month — with both bilateral Iran-US discussions and Tehran’s meetings with the other 5+1 Powers (Britain, Germany, France, China, and Russia) — there has been no apparent advance towards a resolution. The two sides are still divided over Iran’s level and number of centrifuges for uranium enrichment, the lifting of US-led sanctions, and the duration of an agreement.
An interim arrangement was reached in November 2013, but deadlines were twice extended last year amid the failure to conclude the comprehensive deal. Both sides have said there will be no further extension beyond July 1.
In the past 10 days, the dispute has sharpened over whether there can be a “two-stage” resolution or whether it must be a full and final one-stage settlement.
The US Government, hoping to fend off pressure from Congress for new sanctions that would effectively kill off the talks, has proposed an agreement on General Principles by the end of March. The comprehensive deal would follow by July 1.
The Supreme Leader, while indicating Iran is willing to compromise to reach a final resolution, sharply rejected the “two-stage” arrangement.
Iran wants a complete deal that would lift sanctions within six months, but US officials reportedly say the process will take “years”.
The negotiations will begin on Friday when deputy foreign ministers from Iran and the US will hold talks on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, said Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Seyyed Abbas Araqchi.
Araqchi further noted he and Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Majid Takht-e-Ravanchi will sit down with a US delegation headed by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman.
The talks between the deputy foreign minister will continue on Saturday, Araqchi said, adding, “On Sunday and Monday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry will join the negotiators and the talks will continue” between the delegations from the two countries.
“It is also likely that after the fourth day [of bilateral talks between Iran and the US] the negotiations are held at the P5+1 level,” Araqchi added.
Sherman and her team will travel to Geneva, Switzerland, on Thursday to hold negotiations with Iranian officials, the State Department said on Wednesday.
“These bilateral consultations will take place in the context of the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran,” it added.
It noted that Deputy Secretary General for the European Union’s External Action Service Helga Schmid would also join the bilateral talks.
The new round of talks will come as Zarif and Kerry have held meetings multiple times mostly in European capitals.
The last face-to-face meeting between Zarif and Kerry was held in the German city of Munich earlier this month, when they met twice on separate days on the sidelines of an international security conference.
Iran and the P5+1 countries – Russia, China, France, Britain, the United States and Germany – are seeking to seal a high-profile political deal by the end of March and to confirm the full technical details of the accord by July 1.
The scale of Iran’s uranium enrichment and the timetable for the removal of anti-Iran sanctions are seen as the major stumbling blocks in the talks.
Iran has so far suspended some of its enrichment program in return for certain sanctions relief.
By EA WorldView