VIENNA (AP) — George Jahn and Matthew Lee report: Negotiators at the Iran nuclear talks plan to announce Monday that they’ve reached a historic deal capping nearly a decade of diplomacy that would curb the country’s atomic program in return for sanctions relief, two diplomats told The Associated Press on Sunday.
The envoys said a provisional agreement may be reached even earlier — by late Sunday. But they cautioned that final details of the pact were still being worked out. Once it is complete, a formal, final agreement would be open to review by officials in the capitals of Iran and the six world powers at the talks, they said.
Senior U.S. and Iranian officials suggested, however, there might not be enough time to reach a deal by the end of Sunday and that the drafting of documents could bleed into Monday.
All of the officials, who are at the talks in Vienna, demanded anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the negotiations publicly.
“We are working hard, but a deal tonight is simply logistically impossible,” the Iranian official said, noting that the agreement will run roughly 100 pages.
The senior U.S. official declined to speculate as to the timing of any agreement or announcement but said “major issues remain to be resolved.”
Despite the caution, the negotiators appeared to be on the cusp of an agreement.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who on Thursday had threatened to walk away from the negotiations, said Sunday that “a few tough things” remain in the way but added “we’re getting to some real decisions.”
En route to Mass at Vienna’s gothic St. Stephens Cathedral, Kerry said twice he was “hopeful” after a “very good meeting” Saturday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had Muslim services Friday. Read the rest of this entry »
Negotiators Announce Preliminary Outline of a Possible Framework for Tentative Pending Agreement on Iran Nuke ProgramPosted: April 2, 2015
Iran nuclear talks extend beyond deadline
International negotiators on Thursday announced a preliminary agreement on Iran’s nuclear program sketching the framework for a final deal, capping days of exhaustive and tense talks that blew past their original deadline.
At a press conference in Switzerland, negotiators unveiled the framework that would guide the next phase of talks. The U.S., Iran and five other world powers plan to continue working on a deal, in hopes of striking a final agreement by a June 30 deadline.
President Obama plans to speak about the framework in the Rose Garden Thursday afternoon.
Secretary of State John Kerry, earlier, tweeted that all sides have the “parameters to resolve major issues” and will soon get back to work on a “final deal.”
“Big day,” he tweeted.
Reading out a joint statement, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the seven nations would now start writing the text of a final accord. She cited several agreed-upon restrictions on Iran’s enrichment of material that can be used either for energy production or in nuclear warheads. She said Iran won’t produce weapons-grade plutonium.
Crucially for the Iranians, economic sanctions related to its nuclear programs are to be rolled back after the U.N. nuclear agency confirms compliance.
The apparent breakthrough comes after days of talks that went into overtime after missing a March 31 deadline, raising doubts on whether the negotiators could reach any agreement at all. Read the rest of this entry »
French say accord must include transparency on Tehran’s future nuclear activities
LAUSANNE, Switzerland— Laurence Norman reports: Several European foreign ministers arrived in Switzerland for nuclear talks with Iran on Saturday, with Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier saying the negotiations were now entering the endgame.
Officials said it remained unclear, however, if Iran and the six-power group with which it negotiates would be able to meet a March 31 deadline to reach a political understanding on the main parameters of a nuclear deal.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had already held two days of talks in this Swiss lakeside city with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and other top officials. A senior U.S. official described those talks on Friday as tough and very serious.
“Sanctions, pressure and an agreement do not go together.”
—Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Saturday, after meeting with his French and German counterparts.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Mr. Steinmeier and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also arrived here on Saturday, as the two sides made a final 72 hour push to advance the talks.
Failure to reach a political deal on time would pile pressure on the Obama administration in Washington, where lawmakers from both parties have threatened to advance legislation increasing sanctions on Iran, when Congress returns from recess. Such a situation could trigger a major crisis in the diplomatic efforts.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Friday that any political deal may simply be a political statement with a narrative about the main points. Mr. Hammond suggested meeting the March 31 deadline could be challenging and said the current congressional break gave the negotiators some extra leeway to seal a political deal.
A final, detailed nuclear agreement is due to be sealed by June 30.
“The discussions have been long, difficult. We advance on some points and on other points not enough.”
—French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Saturday
Speaking to reporters on Saturday outside the luxury hotel where the talks are taking place, Mr. Fabius said: “I come here with the wish to advance towards a robust accord.”
“The discussions have been long, difficult. We advance on some points and on other points not enough,” he added.
Mr. Fabius said that what is very important is the transparency Iran agrees to for overseeing its nuclear activities and the “controls, to be sure that the commitments made are respected.”
Germany’s Mr. Steinmeier struck a brighter tone as he headed into an afternoon of meetings with Mr. Kerry, Mr. Fabius and Iran’s Mr. Zarif. He said that after 12 years of nuclear talks with Iran, negotiations have entered the endgame. However, he said the final steps to be taken “are the most difficult but also the decisive ones.”
“I can only hope that given what we have achieved in the last 12 months that we don’t cease to try and reach a final agreement. The last 12 months have shown that there is serious willingness on all sides to negotiate,” he said.
Mr. Fabius has adopted a strong line in the Iran talks in recent weeks, with France appearing at odds with the U.S., at times, over what a final nuclear agreement must contain. Read the rest of this entry »
Large Convoys Reported to be Moving Into the Region
BRUSSELS—Naftali Bendavid reports: Russia has sent convoys of tanks, howitzers and other weaponry along with troops into eastern Ukraine in recent days, possibly aiming to consolidate separatist enclaves there in preparation for a long-term standoff, Western observers say.
The new incursions represent a sharp increase in Russia’s presence in the region, posing a significant new challenge to the peace plan signed in early September in Minsk, Belarus.
“This is a severe threat to the cease-fire,” the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. “Any attempt by separatist forces to seize more territory in eastern Ukraine would be another blatant violation of the Minsk agreement.”
The flow “includes Russian artillery, tanks, air defense systems and troops,” he said.
‘We…are again at a point in which we can’t say for sure how this conflict will proceed.’
—German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
In addition, international monitors in the region said that the Russian-backed rebels have been gaining territory, and that the mission’s surveillance drones have been shot at and jammed.
‘While our aim is to try to work to consolidate the cease-fire, it is more on paper.’
—Lamberto Zannier, OSCE secretary-general
Russia’s Defense Ministry denied the allegations of a military presence—troops or weaponry—in Ukraine, calling them, like previous ones, “regular concussions of the Brussels air.”
Since the cease-fire was reached between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists on Sept. 5—under Russian auspices—the two sides have regularly accused each other of violations. Hundreds of deaths of fighters and civilians have been recorded since then. Read the rest of this entry »