Iran nuclear talks to resume shortly
French misgivings prevent deal after three days of intense talks
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at a news conference at the end of the Iranian nuclear talks in Geneva yesterday. Photograph: Reuters/Jason Reed
Discussions on Iran’s nuclear programme will resume in just over a week’s time after negotiations between Iran and the six-nation group representing the international community ended without agreement in Geneva on Saturday.
Misgivings on France’s part meant a deal finally proved elusive after three days of intense talks, with French foreign minister Laurient Fabius saying he would not accept a “fool’s game” in the negotiations. Among the issues at stake for France was the requirement for Iran to remove its reserves of higher-enriched uranium, as well as reservations about the timetable for lifting sanctions.
Speaking to the hardline Iranian parliament yesterday, President Hassan Rouhani said for Iran there were “red lines that cannot be crossed”.
“National interests are our red lines that include our rights under the framework of international regulations and [uranium] enrichment in Iran,” he said.
British foreign minister William Hague insisted yesterday a deal could be reached, though he said the talks had been “formidably difficult”.
While the scheduling of talks for next week suggests the political will behind an agreement remains, senior diplomats rather than the foreign ministers of the main powers will attend next Wednesday’s meeting in Geneva, which will be chaired by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will also be in attendance.
With the US Senate foreign relations committee considering whether to intensify sanctions against Iran, US secretary of state John Kerry will meet lawmakers early this week amid strong resistance from some members of the Senate and Congress. A number of members of the committee said yesterday they planned to push ahead with sanctions.
Mr Kerry made an unscheduled trip to Geneva on Friday, as did the foreign ministers of France, Britain, and Germany, after progress was made on Thursday at the negotiations.
Speaking to US media yesterday, Mr Kerry defended the US stance during the talks.
“We are not blind, and I don’t think we’re stupid. I think we have a pretty strong sense of how to measure whether or not we are acting in the interests of our country and of the globe,” he said.
‘Bad and dangerous’
Earlier, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu appeared on US television, where he reiterated Israel’s opposition to a deal. Mr Netanyahu, who spoke by phone with the leaders of five of the six countries leading the negotiations, said the apparent deal was “bad and dangerous,” warning against an agreement “at any price”.
Under a six-month preliminary plan under discussion, Iran would limit its nuclear activity in exchange for an easing of sanctions on oil, and access to some of the estimated €50 billion Iranian assets that are frozen in international accounts.
In the interim, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency would be granted access to specific nuclear sites. Iran insists that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.