VIENNA: Iran and six world powers haggled Friday over terms of extending negotiations on a nuclear deal for four more months after failing to bridge gaps on limits for Tehran’s atomic program, diplomats said.
It has been clear for days that Iran and Western powers would miss a July 20 deadline to reach a long-term accord on curbing Tehran’s nuclear activities in exchange for a gradual end to international sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.
Before returning to the larger issues that are dividing them – including the permissible scope of Iran’s nuclear fuel production capacity and how to address the country’s suspected past atomic bomb research – they must iron out the conditions of continuing their talks, which began in February in Vienna.
The negotiations are taking place because of a preliminary agreement reached in Geneva in November 2013 that gave Iran limited sanctions relief in exchange for halting some nuclear activities and created time and space for the negotiation of a comprehensive deal to end the decade-long dispute.
“The prevailing opinion and dominant view is that the new key date should be set for November, a year from ... the signing of the Geneva agreement,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was cited by the Itar-tass news agency as saying.
Diplomats said that while the two sides agree on an extension of the interim agreement, they needed to agree on whether Iran should take further steps to restrict its nuclear program for the duration of the negotiations.
The wider negotiations were likely to resume in September, the diplomats said. But it remains uncertain whether four more months of high-stakes talks will yield a final agreement, since the underlying differences on several major issues remain significant after six rounds of meetings this year.