France Says Iran Nuclear Talks 'Heading in a Positive Direction,' but Time Is Still Pressing

Western diplomats have indicated that they hope to have a breakthrough by the end of January or early February, but sharp differences remain with the toughest issues still unresolved

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Iranian missiles are seen on display at Imam Khomeini Grand Mosalla in Tehran on Friday.
Iranian missiles are seen on display at Imam Khomeini Grand Mosalla in Tehran on Friday.Credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/ REUTERS

Progress has been made regarding the Iran nuclear talks although time is running out, France's foreign minister said on Friday.

Indirect talks between Iran and the United States on salvaging the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed on Monday.

Western diplomats have indicated they are hoping to have a breakthrough by the end of January or early February, but sharp differences remain with the toughest issues still unresolved. Iran has rejected any deadline imposed by Western powers.

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"I remain convinced we can reach a deal. Bits of progress have been made in the last few days," Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM TV and RMC Radio. "We have been heading in a positive direction in the last few days, but time is of the essence, because if we don't get an accord quickly there will be nothing to negotiate."

The eighth round of talks, the first under Iran's new hardline President Ebrahim Raisi, resumed on Monday after adding some new Iranian demands to a working text.

FILE: French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Paris in December.Credit: POOL/ REUTERS

Western powers have said progress was too slow and negotiators had "weeks not months" left before the 2015 deal becomes meaningless.

Iran refuses to meet directly with U.S. officials, meaning that other parties – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, must shuttle between the two sides.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera on Thursday, Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian also suggested the situation was positive, but repeated Tehran's position that all sanctions must be lifted and that Washington should provide guarantees that it will not pull out again.

Little remains of that deal, which lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its atomic activities. Then-President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of it in 2018, re-imposing U.S. sanctions, and Iran later breached many of the deal's nuclear restrictions and kept pushing well beyond them.

On Friday, Iran put three ballistic missiles on display at an outdoor prayer esplanade in Tehran, the same types as those used to strike U.S. bases in Iraq.

The display came on the second anniversary of ballistic missile attacks on American bases in Iraq in retaliation for the U.S. drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in 2020.

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