GENEVA - European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the foreign ministers of the six world powers gathered for several hours late Saturday night in a last-ditch effort to reach an agreement regarding a "first step" to halt a large part of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the easing of international sanctions.
At a very brief joint press conference held by Ashton and Zarif following the end of talks, Ashton said a lot of progress had been achieved but differences still remain. She announced talks would resume in Geneva on November 20th.
Zarif said he hoped an agreement would be reached in the next round, and said it is natural that when dealing with the details, "there will be differences."
Just past 2 A.M. local time in Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also gave a short press conference. He reiterated the goal of the Obama administration to prevent a nuclear Iran, and said that differences were significantly narrowed.
"We came to Geneva determined, as Obama has said, to make certain Iran does not acquire nuclear weapon. That remains our goal." Kerry said that talks were conducted with "mutual respect" and that there is no question in his mind they are closer now to an agreement than when they arrived in Geneva.
"It takes time to build confidence between countries that have been at odds for so many years… I am confident this can be done."
The meeting between Ashton, Zarif and the global powers was held in light of the reservations voiced by the French foreign minister over the draft agreement that Ashton, Zarif, and Kerry had reached.
Earlier Saturday, Zarif said that if no deal is reached with world powers on Saturday over Iran's nuclear program, talks could continue in a week to 10 days.
"There was a possibility, and perhaps it still exists, that if there are good intentions we can reach an agreed-upon text," Zarif told reporters in Geneva, where ministers from six major powers are negotiating with Iran.
"If we reach a result by the end of today, it's reached. If not, the process will continue in one week or 10 days."
Zarif held a critical meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton earlier Saturday. After a meeting with Zarif and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Ashton met again with Kerry and Zarif on Saturday evening.
France said on Saturday there was no certainty nuclear talks under way with Iran in Geneva would succeed because of major stumbling blocks over an initial proposed text on a deal.
After a trilateral meeting with Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, French Foreign Minister Fabius said no agreement had been reached. "I hope we can reach an agreement because the Iranian issue is very important for international security. But there are still important points that need to be resolved and the work is ongoing. I hope we can get a deal but there are still differences," he said.
Earlier Saturday, speaking to France Inter radio Fabius said that the concerns of Israel, other countries in region over Iran must be taken seriously into consideration. He added that the major stumbling blocks for France in the talks are the Arak reactor and the 20 percent enriched uranium stock.
"We are for an agreement, that's clear. But the agreement has got to be serious and credible. The initial text made progress but not enough," he said, adding the France would not except "a suckers deal."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke to reporters at the InterContinental hotel in Geneva on the sidelines of the Iran nuclear talks. "There are still issues to resolve. Things are not over yet. Momentum has been achieved and we have to do everything to cease the moment and get a deal. Any deal has to be detailed and arrive at the necessary transparency," he said.
"We may have to continue the talks in the coming weeks here building on the progress that was made in this round. The world has to have confidence in this deal," Hague added. "We have not got a deal so people have to comment and make a judgment when we reach a deal," Hague responded to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's criticism.
Nuclear talks between Iran and the six world powers resumed Saturday morning in an attempt to bridge the differences between the sides and reach an agreement.
Kerry met with Ashton at 8 A.M. local time. Once this meeting ended the two met with Hague, French Foreign Minister Fabius and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. Currently, Zarif is holding a series of separate meetings with the senior representatives.
On Friday, Kerry, Ashton and Zarif held a five-hour meeting, which ended without an agreement. When the meeting ended and the three returned to the Geneva InterContinental hotel they did not provide many details on the contents of the meeting or the state of the talks.
"We made progress and continued to close the gap," a senior American official said. Araqchi said the talks were productive and good.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov arrived in Geneva and will join the talks shortly. Lavrov is hoping to help in bridging the differences between the two sides so that an agreement could be announced.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin is expected to also arrive in Geneva later today.
Reuters also contributed to this report
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