Iran nuclear talks threaten to breach deadline
John Kerry was locked in talks with Iran’s foreign minister last night as diplomats warned that a final effort to settle the confrontation over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions would break its deadline.
After 12 years of diplomacy, a historic agreement designed to resolve one of the Middle East’s most perilous crises was supposed to be signed by midnight.
The US secretary of state’s first meeting with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, began at 7.30am. A second session started four hours later, closely followed by a third. With the deadline approaching, the opposing sides in the Swiss town of Lausanne appear locked in a game of brinkmanship.
Earlier, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, had become an unlikely voice of optimism.
The talks with Iran are handled by the five permanent members of the Security Council – America, Britain, France, Russia and China – plus Germany. Every minister from the “P5 plus 1” has to be present for an agreement to be signed.
Having left Lausanne on Monday, Mr Lavrov chose to return yesterday. The normally taciturn minister gave an upbeat account of the chances of success.
“The prospects of this round of talks are not bad, even good I would say,” said Mr Lavrov. “The chances are high. The odds are quite ‘doable’ if none of the parties raise the stakes at the last minute.”
Mr Lavrov arrived at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel, the venue for the talks, at 4.30pm and joined a meeting between Iran and the “P5 plus 1” ministers.
Demonstrating their seriousness of purpose, the ministers cleared almost all of their advisers from the room. Each of the seven principals retained only one official at his side.
But the earlier sense of optimism swiftly faded. Iran and America are still at loggerheads over vital questions.
Iran wants all United Nations sanctions to be lifted as soon as a final agreement is signed. Mr Kerry will only concede a gradual easing of the pressure, linked to the steps that Iran must take.(© Daily Telegraph, London)