US. Secretary of State Kerry and Iranian FM Zarif shake hands as Omani FM Alawi and EU envoy Ashton watch in Muscat..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The Israeli government believes a major deal with Iran over its nuclear program is more likely than not to be sealed by November 24, a deadline set by world powers on the diplomatic effort, officials told The Jerusalem Post.
Preparing for a nuclear deal that according to a source would include “generous concessions,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet are seeking to lobby not the Obama administration, but European leaders in Paris and Berlin to prevent a deal Israel finds unacceptable.
US Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to London on Monday to brief government officials from the Middle East on the progress of the talks, stalled at an advanced stage as the deadline approaches.
Negotiations are at a critical moment: Talks at the ministerial level were held in Muscat last week, and will reconvene in Vienna later this week in the final dash.
But the decade-long effort, between the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany on the one hand and Iran on the other, may also be extended – perhaps the second most likely scenario, as diplomats recoil at the prospect of a total breakdown.
An interim deal agreed upon last November, and implemented at the beginning of 2014, grants the parties a maximum of a year to negotiate. But a new interim deal is under consideration should they fail to reach agreement by that deadline.
“Extension has not been a subject of negotiations,” one senior Obama administration official said on Monday in a background briefing, describing “tough, direct and serious” talks in Muscat. “We have continued to make some progress... but we still have gaps to close.”
Low oil prices may factor into the pace of progress: Moscow, suffering under the weight of sanctions for its actions in Ukraine, might oppose Iran’s reentry into the crude market.
Also unclear is whether Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will approve any comprehensive deal, much less the one brought before him next week.
Western officials said the permanent UN Security Council members and Germany presented an eight-page proposal this week to the Iranians. US officials could not confirm those claims, except to say that the Iranians didn’t walk away from Muscat with a “piece of paper.”
“The toughest decisions were not going to be taken until the end,” the official said, “if they’re going to be taken at all.”