Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Saturday a nuclear accord was possible if Western powers stop their “excessive demands” from Tehran and “accept the realities,” Iran’s IRNA news agency reported.
Zarif met US Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna Saturday to kick off crunch talks seeking to seal a historic nuclear deal by a June 30 deadline.
The meeting came as diplomats on both sides said that the accord curbing Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief was far from done.
“We’ve come to Vienna to strike an agreement within the next few days, although time is not important and a good deal is more important than a deadline,” Zarif said, according to IRNA.
A senior Iranian official warned Friday that negotiations are hampered by differences not only between Tehran and the six other countries it is bargaining with but internally among the six as well.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s top negotiator, told Iran’s IRNA news agency that — while “on the whole we are making headway” — progress was slow and hard.
Negotiators are finding it difficult to fine tune which sanctions should be lifted when and how open Iran must be to outside monitoring.
Complicating issues, said Araghchi, was the fact that the nations Iran is negotiating with also differ in their approach to certain topics, “which may not be harmonized easily.” He did not offer details.
Signs that Iran is toughening its stance add to the likelihood that the talks could go past the target date. In a speech this week, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, rejected a long-term freeze on nuclear research and insisted that Iran will only sign a deal if international sanctions are lifted first.
He also insisted that military sites and Iranian nuclear scientists will be off-limits to UN experts, who would monitor Iranian compliance to any deal while trying to kick-start a moribund probe of suspicions that Tehran worked on atomic arms — allegations that Iran denies.
Kerry subsequently suggested Khamenei was speaking to a domestic audience appreciative of a hard-line stance and said that a deal would be out of reach if Tehran also reneges on its commitments at the negotiating table.
Meanwhile Iran on Saturday condemned the jihadist attacks in Tunisia, Kuwait and France, saying they were “contrary to the teachings” of Islam.
The incident in Tunisia was aimed at “defacing Islam’s image,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkhamshe said, urging governments of Muslim countries to “take effective measures against acts of terrorism that harm the image and unity of the Muslim world.”