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US-Iran Diplomacy

News, updates, and analysis on the ongoing negotiations between the US other world powers on Iran's nuclear program and other international issues.

US-Iran Diplomacy
  • The next round of talks between six powers and Iran on resolving a dispute over Tehran's nuclear program will be held in Vienna from June 16 to 20, the European Union said on Tuesday.

    EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton held "very long and useful discussions" with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Turkey this week on ways of advancing the nuclear talks, Ashton's spokesman Michael Mann said.

    "The next formal round of (six-power) talks with Iran will be from 16-20 June in Vienna," Mann said, adding that Ashton and Zarif recommended that an expert-level meeting should take place soon.

  • Iran, six powers begin drafting text of nuclear deal

    Six world powers and Iran launched a decisive chapter in diplomacy on Wednesday to begin drafting a lasting accord that could curb Tehran's contested nuclear program in exchange for a phased end to sanctions that have hobbled the Iranian economy.

    This latest negotiating round, which includes the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, in addition to Iran, comes a little more than two months before a July 20 target date for an agreement.

    The six world powers hope to reduce Iran's potential nuclear-weapons-making capacity by negotiating substantial cuts in its atomic program. Tehran says it does not want such arms and is ready for concessions in exchange for an end to all sanctions on its economy.

    A spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who coordinates diplomacy with Iran on behalf of the six countries, said negotiators held a "useful initial discussion" on Wednesday morning and would hold coordination meetings later in the day.

    "We are now hoping to move to a new phase of negotiations in which we will start pulling together what the outline of an agreement could be. All sides are highly committed," the spokesman said.

    Despite some progress over months of talks, diplomats say substantial differences remain and an accord in two months is far from assured, with Western diplomats warning that divisions could prove insurmountable.

    "Quite frankly, this is very, very difficult," a senior U.S. official told reporters on the eve of the talks, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I would caution people that just because we will be drafting it certainly does not mean an agreement is imminent or that we are certain to eventually get to a resolution."

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  • Delegations have all landed in Vienna. Coord mtgs today, Lady Ashton-FM Zarif dinner tonight, & plenaries start tomorrow #IranTalksVienna
  • Iran expects to get a fifth installment this week of previously blocked overseas funds, a senior official was quoted as saying, a payment that would confirm Iranian compliance with a landmark deal with world powers to curb its nuclear program.

    Under last year's interim agreement that took effect on January 20, Iran will receive a total of $4.2 billion of such funds in eight payments over six months, if it lives up to its part of the accord aimed at allaying fears about its atomic aims.

    It says it has already received four transfers in February and March, totaling some $2.1 billion. A fifth payment of $450 million was due on April 15, contingent on Iran having diluted half of its most sensitive stockpile of nuclear materials. Diplomats say Iran is meeting its commitments under the accord.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht-Ravanchi told the official IRNA news agency on Tuesday that the latest installment "was to be freed today", without giving details. Takht-Ravanchi is a senior member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team. The English-language IRNA report was dated April 16.

    The head of the U.N. nuclear agency, Yukiya Amano, last week told Reuters that the nuclear agreement between Iran and the powers - the United States, France, Russia, Germany, China and Britain - was being implemented as planned.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has inspectors on the ground in Iran, issues monthly updates on whether Iran is complying with the deal. The next update is expected this week.

    Under the November 24 agreement, Iran agreed to halt its higher-grade uranium enrichment work and to dilute and convert its stockpile of uranium enriched to a fissile purity of 20 percent.

    Enriched uranium can be used to power nuclear power plants, Iran's stated goal, but also provide material for bombs if refined to a high degree, which the West fears may be the country's ultimate aim. Iran denies those suspicions.

    The interim agreement was designed to buy time for Iran and the powers to negotiate a permanent deal to resolve the decade-old dispute over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Talks got under way in February with a self-imposed July 20 deadline for an agreement.

  • The State Department has released some information that was made public on a phone call with reporters on the nuclear talks that wrapped up Wednesday between Iran and six major powers.

    From the State Department:

    Hello, everyone, and thank you for coming today for this backgrounder. It’s amazing to think that only a few months ago, many of us were in Geneva in the freezing cold finalizing the Joint Plan of Action at 4 in the morning. And today, we find ourselves at the halfway point in these comprehensive negotiations in a somewhat warmer and beautiful Vienna. Geneva was beautiful, just cold. (Laughter.)

    In the past two days, we have continued our substantive discussions about all of the issues that will have to be part of a comprehensive agreement – every single issue you can imagine. These sessions have been in-depth and the conversations have given us important additional insights into where the biggest and most challenging gaps will be as we move forward.

    At this point, we don’t know if we’ll be successful in bridging those gaps, but we are certainly committed, as everyone in the room is, to trying. One thing to keep in mind as we reach this midway mark is that all sides have kept all of the commitments they made in the Joint Plan of Action. That’s given all of us more confidence as we negotiate this even tougher comprehensive agreement.

    In that vein today, we’ve just concluded a meeting of the Joint Commission that was announced when we implemented the Joint Plan of Action. Given it’s the halfway point, we thought it would be an appropriate time to check in on implementation progress, and as I said, the report out of that meeting which I just received is everyone acknowledged that everything was going well. This meeting took place at the experts level, not at the political directors level.

    The next step in this process is to begin actually drafting text, which we have all said would happen after this round. This round and the last round was used to review all of the issues and understand each other’s positions at the beginning of this negotiation. I would caution everyone from thinking that a final agreement is imminent or that it will be easy. As we draft, I have no doubt this will be quite difficult at times. And as we’ve always been clear and as we said explicitly when we were negotiating the Joint Plan of Action – and it is even more so for the comprehensive agreement – we will not rush into a bad deal. We just won’t do it. No deal – as Secretary Kerry has said many times, as the President of the United States has said, no deal is better than a bad deal.

    So now, we’ll move forward to begin drafting actual language. We’ll meet back here in Vienna at the political director level in May. As always, our experts and political directors will be working in the meantime on all of the technical issues that are a part of these talks. And we are all very focused on that special date, July 20th, because we believe that it should give us sufficient time to reach a comprehensive agreement if an agreement is indeed possible.

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