WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s chief nuclear negotiator was set to meet Thursday with Iranian officials in Geneva as negotiations resume on a deal to prevent the Islamic Republic from developing nuclear weapons.
The State Department said Undersecretary Wendy Sherman will be part of a US delegation that also includes Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, who will visit Geneva instead of attending ceasefire talks between Israel and Palestinian factions in Egypt.
Iran and six world powers failed last month to meet their target date for cutting a nuclear deal but agreed to extend the talks until November.
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month Sherman refused to provide a hard deadline for a deal with Iran. She vowed to consult with Congress before suspending more economic sanctions on Tehran, but said the administration won’t necessarily seek lawmakers’ approval. Sherman’s statements drew criticism from Republican committee members who accused her of not being committed to making a deal with Iran.
World powers and Iran recently committed to a four-month negotiating extension through Nov. 24, an agreement that allows the Islamic republic to recoup $2.8 billion in Iranian assets frozen in overseas bank accounts.
Iran says its program is solely designed for peaceful nuclear energy generation and medical research. The United States and its partners believe Iran’s uranium enrichment activity, including a potential heavy water facility that can produce plutonium and ballistic missile research, all point to a covert weapons program.
An interim deal reached last November and put into place earlier this year provided Tehran up to $7 billion in economic relief for a series of measures to freeze its nuclear advancement. The goal was to reach a final agreement by July 20 but Secretary of State John Kerry and other top diplomats said that while tangible progress had been made, the gaps were still too wide.
Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.