Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (R) and Head of Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi talk while other members of their delegation listen after a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry and American officials at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Diplomats from France, Germany and Iran are publicly questioning the viability of a deadline for world powers to reach a comprehensive accord over Tehran’s nuclear work, currently set for June 30.
Since a framework agreement was reached in the diplomatic effort last month in Lausanne, Switzerland, progress toward a final deal has been “proceeding at a slow pace,” Peter Wittig, Germany’s ambassador to the United States, told the Atlantic Council this week.
But “you need the pressure of timelines to facilitate the heavy lifting,” he said, when asked about the importance of the pending deadline.
“It’s very likely that we won’t have an agreement before the end of June, or even after,” added Gerard Araud, France’s ambassador to Washington, predicting brinksmanship toward the end of the month similar to that seen in Lausanne in April.
In Vienna, Iran’s chief negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, said his team is “not bound by time” in its efforts to reach a comprehensive accord.
“We are committed to this issue that a good agreement with details that are favorable to us is hammered out, even if it may take a long time,” Araqchi told Iranian state-run media.
But at the State Department, US officials denied that the June 30 deadline was in question, instead reinforcing their focus on the date.
“We’re not contemplating an extension beyond June 30. We’re united in our efforts in the P5+1 to reach a final agreement by the end of June,” Jeff Rathke, a State Department spokesman, told journalists on Wednesday.
“We believe that if we work in good faith, we can achieve that date and can achieve that goal.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry plans to travel to Geneva on May 30, when he’ll meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif – precisely one month ahead of the stated deadline.
Kerry’s deputy and Washington’s chief negotiator with Iran, Wendy Sherman, is already in Vienna this week for meetings on the nuclear negotiations, along with Araqchi and the European Union’s Helga Schmid, among others.
Familiar fractures within the group of world powers – the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – reemerged, nevertheless, on Wednesday, as French officials warned they are willing to block a final agreement if Iran refuses access for inspectors into some of its military sites.
One site in particular, Parchin, is suspected of hosting Iran’s work experimenting with nuclear weaponization. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has thus far refused to entertain “alien access” to the site.
“France will not accept a deal if it is not clear that inspections can be done at all Iranian installations, including military sites,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told lawmakers in Paris on Wednesday.
France’s position is similar to that of the Obama administration.
Last month, shortly after the Lausanne agreement was announced, one senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post that US President Barack Obama “would find it very difficult to imagine a JCPA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] that did not require such access at Parchin.”