E.U. Iran-Talks Lead: Any Breakthrough Could Push Talks Past Six Months

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Feb. 3, 2014, 8:42 a.m.

A key European Uni­on dip­lo­mat­ic co­ordin­at­or sug­ges­ted that en­voys might need more than half a year to reach a fi­nal nuc­le­ar deal with Ir­an.

The fig­ure, E.U. for­eign policy chief Cath­er­ine Ashton, dis­cussed the pos­sib­il­ity of a drawn-out dip­lo­mat­ic pro­cess in an in­ter­view on Sunday, the Wall Street Journ­al re­ports.

Her re­marks came as some Ir­a­ni­an and West­ern gov­ern­ment in­siders ex­pressed hope that ne­go­ti­at­ors would re­solve years-old con­cerns over Ir­an’s atom­ic activ­it­ies with­in the six-month dur­a­tion of an in­ter­im ac­cord that took ef­fect on Jan. 20. Ex­perts have said com­plic­a­tions could arise from ex­tend­ing the ini­tial pact, in which Tehran agreed to re­strict some of its nuc­le­ar activ­it­ies in re­turn for sanc­tions re­lief pledged by the five per­man­ent U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil mem­ber na­tions and Ger­many.

“Every­one will say to you, and rightly so, this is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult,” said Ashton, who has com­mu­nic­ated with Tehran on be­half of the “P-5+1” na­tions. “We have no guar­an­tees in this and we will take the time that is ne­ces­sary to get this to be the right agree­ment.”

Mul­ti­lat­er­al dis­cus­sions on a com­pre­hens­ive ar­range­ment are sched­uled to start on Feb. 18 in Vi­enna, Re­u­ters quoted her as say­ing on Fri­day. Wash­ing­ton and its al­lies want a fi­nal plan to clear up in­ter­na­tion­al sus­pi­cions that Ir­an is pur­su­ing a nuc­le­ar-weapons cap­ab­il­ity un­der the guise of a peace­ful atom­ic pro­gram.

A num­ber of West­ern gov­ern­ment sources an­onym­ously voiced skep­ti­cism that the sides could fi­nal­ize such a deal by the middle of 2014, the Journ­al re­por­ted. Ac­cord­ing to some en­voys, pre­par­ing a pre­lim­in­ary text as a found­a­tion for the talks could be a months-long pro­cess in it­self.

Ir­an’s top dip­lo­mat is­sued dif­fer­ing as­sess­ments of the pos­sible dur­a­tion of the dis­cus­sions.

Speak­ing on Monday to the Ger­man Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions, Ir­a­ni­an For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­hammad Javad Za­rif said that “with good will we can reach an agree­ment with­in six [months],” Re­u­ters re­por­ted.

On Sunday, though, Za­rif said “it would be fool­ish for us to only bar­gain for six months,” ac­cord­ing to the news agency.

The Ir­a­ni­an for­eign min­is­ter said he held one-on-one meet­ings with U.S. Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry and oth­er top of­fi­cials from the six ne­go­ti­at­ing powers at the Mu­nich Se­cur­ity Con­fer­ence this past week­end.

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