U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that talks over Iran's nuclear program have reached an "urgent" point and warned it would be necessary to take a different course with Tehran if no progress is made.
"There is real urgency, and it's really now a matter of weeks, where we determine whether we can return to mutual compliance with the agreement," Blinken told a joint news conference with his German counterpart, referring to a 2015 nuclear deal.
A similar sense of urgency was conveyed by a French diplomatic source, who said the talks need to speed up because the current trajectory will not enable a deal, adding that February would be decisive.
Indirect talks between Iran, the United States and other world powers on salvaging the deal resumed almost two months ago, but the recent progress made did not include subjects at the heart of the negotiation, the source told reporters on condition of anonymity.
Western diplomats have previously indicated they were hoping to have a breakthrough over the next few weeks, but sharp differences remain with the toughest issues still unresolved. Iran has rejected any deadline imposed by Western powers.
"There is partial, timid and slow progress on the subjects which are not the subjects at the heart of the negotiation which we know are the most important," the source told reporters on condition of anonymity after ministers from Britain, France, Germany and the United States met in Berlin.
"We will not be able to do it (return to the deal) if Iran continues on this trajectory at nuclear level and if the negotiation proceeds in the same way."
- Iran Caved in to the West in Nuclear Talks, or the Other Way Around?
- Iran and the U.S. Both Losing Patience, but Neither Wants to Blow Up Nuclear Talks
- America’s 'World War III' Plan for Iran, and Israel’s Part in It
The eighth round of talks, the first under Iran's new hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi, resumed after adding some new Iranian demands to a working text.
Iran refuses to directly meet U.S. officials, meaning that other parties – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – must shuttle between the two sides.
The source would not set a deadline, but said the current trend was untenable.
"It seems necessary to us to change approach. I think that the month of February will be absolutely decisive. We are not going to continue like this in Vienna on the current trajectories in March, April, May, etc."