VIENNA (Reuters) – Saturday, world powers and Iran struggled to work out their differences so they could end a 12-year standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. This made it more likely that the high-stakes talks would be extended again.
Even though there were signs of progress, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said there were still “big gaps” two days before a self-imposed deadline of Nov. 24 for an agreement. A European source said that it was “very unlikely” that a final deal would be reached by Monday.
The talks in Vienna between Tehran and six world powers (the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China) are meant to get rid of at least one possible source of conflict in the Middle East, which is becoming more and more unstable.
Diplomats said that a framework agreement was still possible, but that it would take weeks or months to agree on the details, which were very important.
They said it would be better to keep going with the talks, which have been going on for more than a year and have led to a partial easing of sanctions, than to let them fall apart and risk making things worse. But some people said that extending the talks could lead to a never-ending cycle of rollovers that would make it hard to reach a final agreement.
Even though there are differences, a senior official from the U.S. State Department said, “We are still moving forward.”
“The focus of talks is still on coming to an agreement, but we’re also talking with our partners and among ourselves about a variety of options for the best way to move forward,” said the official, who didn’t say if one of these options was a possible extension.
The European source said that there had been “no significant” progress on Iran’s ability to enrich uranium and the lifting of sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear programme.
“There aren’t many chances of coming to an agreement in the next 48 hours,” the source said. “We don’t think they (Iran’s negotiators) have a lot of wiggle room.”
Friday, diplomatic sources said that Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif were talking about new ways to get the talks moving again.