Iran and the six global powers are engaged in substantive talks in Geneva, in a bid to close the gaps that caused a possible nuclear deal to falter earlier this month.
As they went into talks on Thursday, the Iranian side made it clear that any deal, if it has to materialise, must accept Tehran’s right to enrich uranium.
"No deal that does not include the right to uranium enrichment from start to finish will be accepted," said Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy Foreign Minister on Twitter.
Israel, Iran’s chief regional rival, has yet again called upon the global powers not to sign a deal that would allow Iran uranium enrichment. In talks in Moscow on Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin, visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that the “ international community should unambiguously watch how [Iran] fulfills the UN Security Council resolution which is to stop uranium enrichment, to withdraw enriched materials from Iran and to demount the nuclear reactor in Arak."
The Israeli Premier was referring to Iran’s heavy water nuclear reactor, which can yield plutonium, once it becomes functional, providing Iran with another route to develop an atomic bomb. CNN had earlier reported that the Americans were seeking a commitment from Iran not to “activate” the facility. But France, accused by Tehran of acting on Israel’s behest, instead sought suspension of all construction activity at the plant.
The Voice of Russia is reporting, quoting an Iranian source that progress in talks will be hampered if Iran’s interlocutors persist with the ideas introduced by Paris during the previous round of talks. "If France and the P5+1 as a whole continue insisting on the earlier announced conditions, Iran will hardly like this," said the source.
Apart from enrichment and status of the Arak plant, the degree to which the United States and its allies would be willing to lift sanctions also appears to have become a subject of fresh contention. Mr. Araqchi said at a Thursday presser that Iran would seek the removal of oil and gas sanctions included as the “first step” of a possible deal with the global powers. It remains unclear whether Tehran would remain inflexible on this demand or use it as a bargaining chip at this stage to get maximum sanctions relief.
Mr. Araqchi said that if the US representative in talks with Iran, Wendy Sherman, or someone else, has claimed that only a small part of the sanctions against Iran would be removed, in that case “they should be sure that we will also take few measures”.
Contrary to the cautious approach adopted by Iran, Western media reports are imparting a positive spin to the likely outcome of the talks. The website Al Monitor is reporting “unusually heavy diplomatic and police security” in Geneva and, citing diplomats did not rule out arrival of foreign ministers of the six global powers “possibly as early as Friday” at the signing ceremony of the deal. It quoted Jen Psaki of U.S. State Department as saying that Secretary of State, John Kerry, is “open to going if it would continue to help narrow the gaps”.
While Mr. Zarif engaged with Catharine Ashton, the foreign policy chief of the European Union (EU) on Wednesday and again on Thursday, he, and members of his delegation also met the Russian representative Sergei Ryabkov separately. Besides, Iranian diplomats met Wendy Sherman, the U.S. representative to the talks. "So far, we have progressed based on our plans and we agreed to start serious and detailed negotiations about the agreement with Lady Ashton tomorrow,” wrote Mr. Zarif on his Facebook page on Wednesday after having lunch with the EU foreign policy chief.