Marathon talks with Iran continue toward an unclear endgame

Negotiators still cannot agree on the definition and scope of a "political understanding."

April 2, 2015 15:30
2 minute read.
A late night view of the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel during an extended round of Iran nuclear talks

A late night view of the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel during an extended round of Iran nuclear talks in Lausanne. (photo credit: REUTERS)

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Continuing a bout of diplomacy unprecedented in the modern era, US Secretary of State John Kerry is now personally engaged in the eighth consecutive day of talks with Iran over its nuclear program still unclear on the path forward.

Kerry hopes to convince Iran to provide more than just a press statement from nearly two years of talks over its nuclear work. But success remained far from clear midday on Thursday, as journalists and delegates alike grew restless in the Beau Rivage Palace here on the shores of Lake Geneva.

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After negotiating through the night until 6:00 am, two days after blowing straight through a deadline set by the US and its allies, diplomats presented little to the press to show for their efforts.

Asked by The Jerusalem Post whether diplomats would provide anything more than a press statement today, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi said it was" still too early to say."

"We’re at a tough moment," one senior Western official told the Associated Press this morning, "and the path forward is really unclear.”

Technical solutions continue to elude negotiators on a host of issues, including the future of Iran's research and development of nuclear technology, how to dispose of Iran's uranium stockpile and the pace with which sanctions would be relieved under any future deal.

The Obama administration considers these decisions, among others, to be matters of policy, ultimately requiring political will that Iran must demonstrate before talks continue on a technical level toward a hard deadline of June 30.

But Tehran disagrees, and on Thursday continued to insist on a single-step agreement that codifies all tenets of a deal.

"We are working on setting parameters of the issues that will lead to drafting the final deal by end of June," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told local reporters.

Thus, argument over the very nature of an agreement has become a negotiation in and of itself. One senior Iranian official here told local press to expect a mere press release produced from Lausanne, far short of the standard set by Washington and other international powers.

The White House says US President Barack Obama is willing to walk away from the talks. But neither side wants the blame that invariably comes from doing so.

"The international community would, understandably, hold Iran accountable" should negotiations fail, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Wednesday.

Diplomats from the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany worked straight through a self-imposed deadline on Tuesday night in its talks with the Islamic Republic. Those powers, known formally as the P5+1, aim to cap, restrict, monitor and partially roll back Iran's nuclear work for a finite period.

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