The European Union announced Friday afternoon that deadline for the ongoing Iran nuclear talks in Vienna will be extended to July 13.
"To allow for the additional time to negotiate, we are taking the necessary technical steps for the measures of the Joint Point of Action to remain in place through July 13," a senior U.S. State Department official said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Vienna before meeting with the U.S. negotiating team that some contentious issues have been solved over the past 24 hours.
"I think we have resolved some of the things that were outstanding and we've made some progress," he said.
"The atmosphere is very constructive We still have a couple of very difficult issues, and we'll be sitting down to discuss those in the very near term - this evening and into tomorrow."
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said upon his departure from Vienna on Friday afternoon that there has been progress in the talks, albeit very slow. Hammond is to return to Vienna on Saturday.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani said Friday morning that nuclear negotiations taking place in Vienna between the Islamic Republic and world powers were in a "sensitive stage."
Rohani made the comments after returning to Iran from a visit to Moscow as Kerry was scheduled to meet his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif at the Palais Coburg Hotel in the Austrian capital in an attempt to extricate talks from their current stalemate.
One of the toughest issues facing negotiations is the arms embargo imposed on Iran a number of years ago by the UN Security Council. The Iranians are demanding the embarbgo be lifted as part of the nuclear accord, and China and Russia – the Islamic Republic's two biggest arms suppliers – have supported the demand. An additional issue has to do with the timetable for the removal of sanctions on Iran as well as the different 'snap-back' mechanisms governing the reimplementation of sanctions should Iran fail to make good on its part of the bargain.
The meeting between Zarif and Kerry come on the backdrop of mutual allegations by both the Iranian and American delegations which began late Thursday evening after it became clear the sides would not be able to reach the deal until the midnight deadline set for July 9, and would be forced to extend talks for the third times in as many weeks.
A senior official from the Iranian delegation told reporters that the world powers, especially the U.S., had hardened their position and made new and outlandish demands which Iran claims contradict earlier agreements. The senior Iranian official said that despite the setback, Iran was not planning to leave the negotiation table and is still interested in reaching a deal.
The senior Iranian noted that the west's new positions are increasingly pushing talks to a stalemate. "They have opened in a psychological war against us and are trying to play a game of guilt," he said. "They want us to surrender to their exaggerated demands or carry the responsibility for the talks' failure."
The comments came after Kerry said Thursday that "This is not open ended. If tough decisions don't get made we are ready to call an end to this process."
The secretary of state said that the Iranians would have to make difficult decisions "very soon." He also said that the United States "will not rush and we will not be rushed. All we are focused on is the quality of the agreement."
The intensive talks in Vienna were continuing Thursday, two days after another deadline for a deal was missed. According to reports in the Iranian media, the sides have closed many of their gaps and put together most of the draft agreement. Western diplomats said, however, that gaps remain on technical issues as well as matters which require decisions made by the political echelons.
The previous deadline set for the talks was July 10 at midnight, at which point a congressional clause will go into effect according to which American lawmakers will have 60 days to dissect the agreement, rather than 30.
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