Talks on a nuclear deal with Iran have made “real progress” but several issues remain, the White House said Monday, suggesting the negotiations in Vienna could extend into another day.
“They have made genuine progress… but there continues to be some sticking points that remain unresolved,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in Washington.
Earlier, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif indicated that a deal would not be signed Monday night, stepping out on the balcony of the hotel where the talks are being held to address journalists waiting below.
An Iranian reporter asked the top Iranian diplomat if negotiations would come to a close by Monday at midnight. Zarif nodded his head, signaling, as per Iranian custom, no.
Zarif shouted down to the reporters crowded below that he was “sleepy and overworked,” but did not elaborate further on the status of the negotiations.
He also sounded a note of cautious optimism on Twitter, a favored means of communication. “If #IranDeal reached, triumph of diplomacy means we all will have won when we all could have lost. Plain and simple; no spin needed,” Zarif wrote.
Zarif’s tweet was followed by a post by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani feting the completion of an agreement — apparently prematurely — which was subsequently deleted.
“#IranDeal is the victory of diplomacy and mutual respect over the outdated paradigm of exclusion and coercion. And this is a good beginning,” the tweet read.
The tweet also appeared briefly in Farsi, before being deleted as well. The English version was replaced an hour later, with an added “if” at the beginning of the text.
If #IranDeal, victory of diplomacy and mutual respect over outdated paradigm of exclusion and coercion. And this will be good beginning.
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) July 13, 2015
Earlier, an Iranian source told AFP there was little possibility that Iran and the major powers will agree on a historic nuclear deal before Monday night’s deadline.
Asked if reaching a deal Monday was now out of the question, the source close to the Iranian delegation said that there was only a “low chance.”
Channel 2 TV reported that the question of the arms embargo on Iran was holding up the deal, although the issue would not be included in the final agreement.
While stressing that the continued negotiations were not an extension, Iranian diplomats earlier had cast doubt on whether a deal would be signed Monday.
“Talks have reached the final breathtaking moments; certain issues still remain,” Abbas Araqchi said, according to the Iranian Press TV. “As long as these issues are not settled, one cannot say we have reached an agreement.”
Zarif said Monday he believed there should be no further extension to nuclear talks with the major powers, but that he would negotiate “as long as necessary.”
“I always believe there shouldn’t be any extension, but we could work as long as necessary to finish this,” Zarif said in English as he met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Vienna.
Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.