After days of saying Iranian nuclear talks can go either way, US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed optimism Sunday that a deal can be reached.
Kerry said he was “hopeful” after his last meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. He said a “few tough things” remain in the way of agreement but “we’re getting to some real decisions.”
Kerry spoke with less than two days to go to Monday’s target date for a pact meant to impose long-term verifiable limits on nuclear programs that Tehran could modify to produce weapons. Iran would get tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief in return.
In what could be taken as another sign that a deal is drawing near, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was set to join Iran nuclear talks in Vienna later Sunday, Russian news agencies reported, citing a ministry source.
“Today, Minister Lavrov plans to take part in talks on the Iran nuclear program in Vienna,” the source was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti state news agency.
The talks are now in their 16th day and have been extended repeatedly since a recent deadline of July 1 was missed.
‘Caving’ to Tehran
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the most vocal critics of the emerging deal, said Sunday that Western powers were “caving” to Iran even as the Islamic Republic kept railing against them.
Responding to the Iranian supreme leader’s call to continue the struggle against the United States regardless of the outcome of nuclear talks, Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting that the country would not accept such a reality.
Iran’s state-run Press TV had cited Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as calling the US an “excellent example of arrogance.” It said Khamenei told Tehran university students to be “prepared to continue the struggle against arrogant powers.”
Netanyahu said that Iran “does not hide its intentions” and warned the world against placating it.
The deal “paves Iran’s way to many nuclear bombs and gives it hundreds of billions of dollars for its terrorism and conquest machine, thereby endangering the peace of the entire world,” he said.
“Ninety-eight percent of the text is finished,” said a source close to the discussions, after a flurry of bilateral and multilateral meetings throughout Saturday.
Two or three key questions remained, however, including how long any agreement should last, and over the lifting of international sanctions on Iran such as a UN arms embargo, the source added.
“Now there needs to be a political decision. And if that is taken things could quickly” progress, the source said.
AP and AFP contributed to this report.