French diplomat says Iran nuclear talks are in the ‘homestretch’
A French diplomat said nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva are in the “homestretch” but stressed the negotiations are not yet over as world powers continue to push for a deal.
The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has joined his P5+1 counterparts, including French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, in Switzerland for the talks with Iran, two weeks after the last round of negotiations fell through without agreement.
Officials said an accord was close but a number of issues need to be ironed out in an accord that could see Iran limit its nuclear work in return for some sanctions relief.
The talks were due to end on Friday but were extended to Saturday amid hopes of a deal.
As he arrived for the talks on Saturday, the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said the talks “remain very difficult”.
"I think it is important to stress that we are not here because things are necessarily finished," Hague said, echoing the Germain Foreign Minsiter, Guido Westerwelle, who said there was “still a lot of work to do”.
The talks, chaired by the European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, involve Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France – as well as Germany.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that “for the first time in many years” there was a “real opportunity” for a deal.
Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful, but Western powers suspect it is aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons.
Although few details have emerged from the successive rounds of confidential talks, it is believed the P5+1 members want Iran to stop enriching uranium to levels close to weapons-grade; stop constructing a new reactor at Arak, in Iran’s north-west; and grant the International Atomic Energy Agency greater inspection rights.
In return, Iran would be offered minor relief from sanctions such as trade restrictions.
A major sticking point has been Iran’s demand for recognition of its “right” to enrich uranium.
This weeks talks are the third such negotiations since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took office earlier this year.
Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morningSubscribe