VIENNA – Hopes of a nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers by Tuesday’s deadline faded on Monday, with the consensus being that an agreement will only be reached by week’s end.
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A feeling of optimism had prevailed in the Austrian capital in recent days. That disappeared when the Iranian delegation talked of a possible extension being required to conclude talks beyond Tuesday’s deadline.
An Iranian diplomat who briefed Western correspondents said, “We are not committed to any deadline,” and urged the West to “make decisions.” The Iranian statements are, in effect, a mirror image of the messages of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday, when he said Iran and the world powers “are not yet where we need to be on several of the most difficult issues.”
The arrival of the foreign ministers of the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany) on Sunday was supposed to mark the nearing of an agreement. However, it instead injected an element of disagreement into the world powers’ discussions.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani is supposed to meet in the Russian city of Ufa this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and there was hope they would be able to celebrate the attaining of the agreement. Now, it looks as though the disputed issues are likely to remain until Wednesday at the very least. On the Iranian side, they are trying to accuse the West – mainly French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius – of hardening their positions.
Despite the possibility of another postponement – which follows on from a seven-day extension to the talks last week beyond their original June 30 deadline – the consensus in Vienna is that an agreement will be reached by Friday, and that the talk on both sides about a willingness to “leave the table” is mainly a negotiating tactic.
It is perhaps also meant to serve the domestic political interests of the Iranians and Americans, who will have to sell the agreement to the general public (especially the Iranians) and to the Senate in Washington, D.C. Neither side wants to be seen as the one who gave in too easily, up until the very last moment when they stand on the stage and shake hands.
Iranian and Western officials said earlier Monday that United Nations sanctions on Iran's ballistic missile program is among the issues holding up thenuclear deal between Tehran and the six world powers.
"The Iranians want the ballistic missile sanctions lifted. They say there is no reason to connect it with the nuclear issue, a view that is difficult to accept," a Western official told Reuters. "There's no appetite for that on our part."
Iranian and Western officials confirmed this view.
Separately, a senior Iranian official told reporters on condition of anonymity in the Austrian capital on Monday that Tehran wanted a United Nations arms embargo terminated as well.