Final round of negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran continue in Vienna November 21, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
High-level negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program will resume on January 18 in Geneva, Iranian officials said Tuesday, three months ahead of a self-imposed deadline for diplomats to reach a political framework agreement ending the crisis.
Diplomats from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany seek to curb Iran’s nuclear program through dismantlement, the enforcement of new caps on enrichment and a strict inspections regime monitoring the program over the course of a decade. Iran has so far rejected any dismantlement of its nuclear infrastructure.
EU officials, who have been coordinating the effort, have not yet confirmed the date for the resumption of talks. But Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said the latest round will include bilateral discussions between Iranian officials and their American and Russian counterparts beginning January 15.
Out of the public eye, negotiations have been ongoing among technical experts, lower-level diplomats and even principals in between rounds that convene the parties’ political directors.
Nuclear and energy advisers have worked continuously to build a framework agreement that would, to their satisfaction, guarantee the peaceful nature of an Iranian nuclear program going forward, Western officials say.
Late in negotiations last year, US President Barack Obama reportedly sent a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, testing the political viability of an agreement. US officials argue the political hurdles may well be more difficult to overcome than technical obstacles.
Earlier on Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif briefed Parliament, which is dominated by hard-liners, in order to defend his progress during the nuclear talks. Despite tough questions by the hard-liners opposed to talks, the majority of lawmakers backed the negotiating team’s approach to date.
“Today nobody questions the [uranium] enrichment itself in Iran,” Zarif told Parliament, according to state media.
“The discussion now is on the amount of enrichment.”
Zarif claimed Tuesday that Iran’s foreign policy has made Israel isolated.
“Today, [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s threats and policies are spent and his speeches have no audience thanks to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s wise and coordinated policies,” he said according to Iran’s Tasnim News Agency.
“The Western leaders do not refer to Iran’s peaceful nuclear program as a nuclear weapon program anymore, and Netanyahu has become isolated in the world. That is why Netanyahu blames the international community for the stabilization of Iran’s nuclear program in a furious and frustrated manner.”
Zarif also referred to the reported fatwa that Khamenei made banning nuclear weapons, the country’s Fars News Agency reported. Experts are split over whether an official fatwa against nuclear weapons exists.
Reuters contributed to this report.