The US State Department announced that the nuclear talks in Vienna will be extended a further 72 hours after yesterday’s revised deadline passed without an agreement.
Iran and the P5+1 (US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) agreed a framework to a comprehensive nuclear deal in April, paving the way for negotiations towards a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to be concluded by 30 June. However, with no agreement reached, it was agreed that talks would continue up until yesterday. It became clear yesterday though that this deadline too would slip, prompting US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf to announce the extension, saying, “We’re frankly more concerned about the quality of the deal than we are about the clock.” Harf added that “substantial progress” had been made in the talks.
However, the 72 extension would appear to sanction a deal being submitted to US Congress for review after 9 July, which would hand Congress 60 days to consider an agreement rather than 30, potentially holding back its implementation. Some media outlets suggest that this intentionally places pressure on Iran, as much as the P5+1 to reach agreement within the coming 48 hours.
Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond briefly left the talks, but is scheduled to return commenting, “we are looking forward to making some solid progress on Thursday when we reconvene.” France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that the remaining points of contention include “limitations on [Iranian] nuclear research and development, sanctions and their re-establishment, and the possible military dimensions” of Iran’s past work.
However, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov candidly said, “I can tell you that there is only one big problem in terms of sanctions – it is the problem of a weapons embargo.” Iran is demanding that the P5+1 commit to lifting a United Nations arms embargo from 2007. Tehran already provides material support to Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria’s President Assad and rebels in Yemen. Lifting the embargo would increase Iran’s potential to destabilise the region.