• Austria's news in English

Iran talks fail despite diplomatic efforts

AFP/The Local · 25 Nov 2014, 11:55

Published: 25 Nov 2014 11:55 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The failure came despite an intensive five-day diplomatic push in the Austrian capital Vienna involving the foreign ministers of Iran, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

But US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in Vienna, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, speaking in Tehran, said real progress had been made in the talks and raised hopes a deal could eventually be sealed.

"This path of negotiation will reach a final agreement," Rouhani said on state television. "Most of the gaps have been removed."

In their second extension this year, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5+1, will seek to strike an outline deal by March and to nail down a full technical accord by July 1, officials said.

Talks will 'stay tough'

"These talks aren't going to suddenly get easier just because we extend them," Kerry said Monday as he and other officials conceded the midnight deadline would be missed.

"They are tough. They have been tough and they are going to stay tough," he told hundreds of journalists crowded into a tent outside the 19th century palace where the talks were held.

"But in these last days in Vienna we have made real and substantial progress and we have seen new ideas surface."

Kerry's Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, gave a similar upbeat assessment to reporters later.

"All of us are insisting that we don't need seven months" to strike a deal, because the negotiators are going to get down to work immediately, Zarif said.

In the best chance to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear programme, the P5+1 world powers have been for months seeking to turn an interim deal into a lasting accord.

Such an agreement is aimed at easing fears that Tehran will develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities, an ambition Iran denies.

It could see painful sanctions on Iran lifted, silence talk of war and usher in a new era of cooperation between Washington and Tehran, which have called each other the "axis of evil" and the "Great Satan."

But a last-ditch diplomatic blitz in Vienna in recent days involving Kerry and the other foreign ministers failed to bridge the remaining gaps.

This included eight meetings since Tuesday between Kerry and Zarif and numerous other gatherings in the Austrian capital.

Gaps on crucial points

Diplomats said that, despite some progress, both sides remain far apart on two crucial points: uranium enrichment and sanctions relief.

Enriching uranium renders it suitable for peaceful purposes like nuclear power. But at high purities it is also used as the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.

Tehran wants to massively ramp up the number of enrichment centrifuges in order, it says, to make fuel for a fleet of power reactors that it is yet to build.

The West wants the enrichment dramatically reduced, a move which together with more stringent UN inspections and an export of Iran's uranium stocks, would make any attempt to make the bomb all but impossible.

Iran wants painful UN and Western sanctions that have strangled its vital oil exports lifted, but the powers want to stagger any relief over a long period to ensure Tehran complies with any deal.

More time on the clock

The conditions set by last November's interim deal will remain in place until July, including a continued freeze by Iran of contentious parts of its nuclear activities.

In return, Iran will keep receiving around $700 million (560 million euros) in frozen funds per month, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said, or $4.9 billion by July, adding to some $7 billion received since January.

Another extension -- as happened to an earlier deadline of July 20 -- however carries risks of its own, including possible fresh US sanctions that could lead Iran to walk away.

Story continues below…

"New sanctions legislation against Iran, which has been proposed by more than several members of Congress, would undermine the chance to reach a comprehensive deal that guards against a nuclear-armed Iran," Arms Control Association analyst Kelsey Davenport told AFP.

"The imposition of new sanctions measures will most certainly provoke Iran to take escalatory measures that could lead to a larger crisis in the Middle East."

Kerry appealed on Monday to US lawmakers -- with Republicans in control of both houses from January -- not to pass fresh sanctions on Iran.

"This is certainly not the time to get up and walk away... We look for your support (in Congress) for this extension," Kerry said.

US House and Senate members reacted coolly to the extension of negotiations, with sceptical lawmakers demanding Congress "tighten the economic vice on Tehran" through new sanctions.

The European Union is likely to extend a freeze on certain sanctions against Iran, a diplomatic source in Brussels said.

Such a move could be adopted by the 28 members of the EU as early as Tuesday. The measure would involve a range of sanctions suspended in January.

For more news from Austria, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (rosie.waites@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Verdict on swimming pool rape case overturned
The Theresienbad swimming pool in Vienna. Photo: Wikimedia

An Iraqi refugee who was jailed after claiming it was a sexual emergency when he raped a boy in a swimming pool has had the sentence overturned.

Vienna Comic Con promises to be 'bigger and more galactic'
Cosplay star Yaya Han. Copyright: Yaya Han/Bryan Humphrey

Comic Con returns to the Austrian capital on November 19th-20th at the Messe Wien.

Three refugees arrested on drugs charges
Cannabis plants. Photo: J. Patrick Bedell/Wikimedia

A gang of three Afghani drug dealers has been busted in Vienna.

Hungarian woman crushed by snowcat piste machine
Snowcat machine. Photo: Melensdad/Wikimedia

A young Hungarian woman has died after being crushed by a snowcat piste machine on the Dobratsch mountain in Carinthia.

Austrian policeman sentenced over 'Heil Hitler' salute
Photo: Flickr

A policeman in Austria was sentenced on Thursday for shouting "Heil Hitler" at a driver during a traffic check at the Hungarian border in April.

Scary clown craze endangers crucial work of clown 'doctors'
Photo: Bojan Tavcar

Within the last couple weeks, disturbing events involving masked individuals has caught public attention in Austria.

Chimney sweep rescues lost mushroom picker
Photo: James Lindsey/Wikimedia

A 76-year-old Austrian man who went out mushroom picking almost froze to death after getting lost and spending the night in the forest.

Refugees sold into forced prostitution
File photo: UNHCR

Female refugees are being sold into forced prostitution in Austria, a police investigation into human trafficking has found.

Driverless bus takes a spin around Salzburg's old town
The Arma driverless shuttle bus. Photo: Navya

A driverless minibus has made a test journey in the city of Salzburg.

No jail time for asylum seeker who dumped baby in road
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

A man who grabbed his own child and dumped her in the middle of a busy road has been given a nine-month suspended sentence.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 brilliant German words you won't find in English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Five films which will change your mind about Austrian cinema
Those surprising Austrians!
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
100 years since the last emperor's death
Afghani family's new home in Austria
Der you learn Deutsch?
Delighted by the light
Beware these passport scams
Of course we skipped Oarsch
Foodies rejoice at the choice!
Travel & Tourism
10 years after her escape from captivity
Surviving the Brexit for British expats
Day 2 of the World Bodypainting Festival 2016
Is Islam hostile to Western society?
Bodypainting festival in southern Austria
Europe's ice cream capital
Best Austrian beauty spots
Travel & Tourism
Three days in Vienna as a tourist
How to make friends in Austria
jobs available