After two days of intensive talks in Vienna, Iran and six world powers have agreed on an “agenda and a framework” for the next round of negotiations on Iran’s rogue nuclear program.
Officials of both sides described their plans as “very productive.” In a joint statement, they said the next round of negotiations would begin in Vienna on March 17.
“We’ve identified the issues we need to address for a comprehensive and final agreement,” said Catherine Ashton, the EU’s top diplomat who convened the talks between Iran and the six powers — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.
Ashton will be in Tehran March 9-10, a week before the next round of talks, Reuters reported.
“It won’t be easy, but we’ve gotten off to a good start,” she said in a statement later read in Farsi by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“The involved parties have agreed on an agenda and a framework and the next round of talks will be in the second half of March in Vienna,” Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister told official Iranian state news agency IRNA.
On Wednesday the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who had previously predicted that the talks would fall short, ordered his government to take precautionary steps in case the talks fail. Meanwhile, the head of the Revolutionary Guards warned the Iranian negotiators against concessions that could tarnish the nation’s pride.
The Iranian ISNA news agency had previously reported that the sides had agreed to a draft agenda for talks, but had not finalized it, and a Western official told Reuters that talks were going “surprisingly well.”
“The focus was on the parameters and the process of negotiations, the timetable of what is going to be a medium- to long-term process,” a European diplomat told the news service. “We don’t expect instant results.”
The talks are designed to build on a first-step deal that came into effect last month and commits Iran to initial curbs on its nuclear program in return for some easing of sanctions. The deal can be extended, if both sides agree to do so after six months.
The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany seek an agreement that will leave Iran with little capacity to quickly ramp up its nuclear program into weapons-making mode with enriched uranium or plutonium, which can be used for the fissile core of a missile.
For that, they say Iran needs to dismantle or store most of its 20,000 uranium enriching centrifuges, including some of those not yet working. The six powers also demand that an Iranian reactor being built be either scrapped or converted from a heavy-water setup to a light-water facility that makes less plutonium.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.