Iranian diplomats said that "considerable progress" had been made at nuclear talks in Geneva as US Secretary of State John Kerry made a last-minute decision on Friday to join the talks, boosting hopes that a deal was imminent.
Iran and the six world powers taking part in nuclear negotiations in Geneva on Friday appeared closer to concluding an interim deal under which Tehran would curb its nuclear programme, with Iranian diplomats saying "considerable progress" had been made.
A compromise deal on Iran’s insistence that its “right” to enrich uranium be recognised has been proposed, diplomats said, possibly opening the way to a breakthrough in negotiations that began on Wednesday between Tehran and the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany.
The United States and other Western powers insist that there is no inviolable right to enrich uranium, a process that can have civilian energy applications as well as create nuclear weapons. But Iran views the matter as one of national sovereignty and says it is crucial to any deal that would resolve the long-running standoff over its nuclear intentions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Tehran’s chief negotiator, said earlier in the day that significant headway had been made.
“We are negotiating our differences and we have made considerable progress,” he said. “In some cases we have had results ... but still we have three, four differences.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry made a last-minute decision to join the talks, boosting hopes that diplomats were already close to a deal.
"Secretary Kerry will travel to Geneva later today with the goal of continuing to help narrow the differences and move closer to an agreement," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Geneva late on Friday, his spokeswoman said. “I can confirm that we are staying Friday and Saturday. That is the plan,” Maria Zakharova told reporters.
The negotiations, which were due to end on Friday, have been extended into the weekend amid hopes that an interim agreement was imminent.
Both sides have struggled to strike a deal, hampered by a long legacy of mutual mistrust.
Diplomats said the new, compromise language being discussed does not explicitly recognise any country's right to produce nuclear fuel. “If you speak about the right to a peaceful nuclear programme that’s open to interpretation,” a diplomat told Reuters, without elaborating.
The fate of Iran’s Arak heavy-water reactor project – a potential source of an alternative bomb material, plutonium – and the extent of any sanctions relief were among the other stumbling blocks, diplomats said.
Tehran has made clear it needs significant consessions to reverse the effects of the crippling sanctions regime that is blocking its oil exports, the lifeblood of Iran's economy.
An easing of sanctions could involve releasing some of the Iranian funds frozen in foreign bank accounts and allowing trade in precious metals, petrochemicals and aircraft parts. The United States might also agree to relax the pressure they have put on other countries not to buy Iranian oil.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2013-11-22