The nuclear talks between Iran and the world powers will be extended for several days beyond the June 30 deadline, in an attempt to bridge the remaining gaps, a senior member of the U.S. delegation to the talks said on Sunday.
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"We've said that these talks could go beyond June 30th for a few days if we need some additional time to conclude a strong comprehensive agreement," the official said.
According to the official, even though progress has been made over the past several days, some differences remain and negotiating teams still have work to do. He added that he does not know how much extra time will be needed, but stressed that the U.S. is focused on reaching an agreement during the current round of negotiations. The official added that the U.S. has no intention of prolonging the talks beyond several days.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is expected to leave Vienna on Sunday and fly back to Tehran for consultations. Zarif will return to the talks on Tuesday.
According to the senior American official, Zarif updated U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday about his plan to travel to Tehran for a brief round of consultations. The official added that other foreign ministers are expected to return to their respective capitals for consultations over the next 24 hours, and return to Vienna on June 30. Kerry and Zarif are expected to meet again later on Sunday before the Iranian foreign minister departs.
On Sunday, Kerry and Zarif held separate meetings with the German and British foreign ministers. Later, the foreign ministers of the world powers held a joint meeting. Russia's Sergei Lavrov was absent from the meeting, and will only arrive in Vienna on Monday. China is being represented at the talks by its deputy foreign minister.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who joined the talks on Sunday, said upon his arrival at the Coberg Hotel in Vienna that there are still differences between Iran and the world powers regarding several issues. These differences, he said, stem from the different interpretation of what exactly was agreed on by the sides at the Lausanne talks in early April. Hammond said that there are several red lines that the powers will not allow to be crossed. "It’s better not to reach a deal at all than reach a bad deal," he said.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the German newspaper Die Welt that if Iran and the world powers fail to reach a nuclear agreement, an arms race would be triggered across the Middle East. "If there's no agreement everyone loses," Steinmeier said in the interview published Sunday, adding that the monitoring Iran's nuclear facilities is non-negotiable. Steinmeier also said that the powers would be willing to show flexibility only regarding the question of how to carry out inspections at suspected nuclear sites in Iran – not whether they will be carried out. The German foreign minister also said that he believes a nuclear agreement will bring Iran back into the fold of the international community and provide an opportunity for political change in the Islamic Republic.