Moscow: Hope, but no breakthrough so far in nuclear talks with Iran

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov expressed optimism that a deal could be reached by the deadline.

November 13, 2014 01:46
2 minute read.
Iran nuclear talks in Oman

From left: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, EU envoy Catherine Ashton, Omani Foreign Minister Yussef bin Alawi and US Secretary of State John Kerry. (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – “Deep gaps” remain between world powers and Iran over its nuclear program, a Russian official said on Wednesday, as negotiations intensified toward a November 24 deadline.

But speaking from Muscat, Oman, where the negotiators have converged for several days after basing their talks in Vienna, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov expressed optimism that a deal could be reached by the deadline.

“We aren’t looking at the possibility of not reaching a deal by November 24,” Ryabkov, who was present at the latest talks in Muscat this week, said on Wednesday.

“We are focused completely on the task before us, in so far as we have a chance, and it’s not small. We can’t miss [the opportunity].”

But Ryabkov’s optimism came as Tehran confirmed the government had tested a new centrifuge that could speed uranium enrichment, fueling the infrastructure with gas, in possible violation of an international agreement.

Ten months ago, Iran and the P5+1 – the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany – agreed to a short-term deal that has effectively frozen the long-standing crisis.

That deal, the Joint Plan of Action, grants the parties a year to negotiate.

That deal allowed Iran to continue its “current enrichment R&D [research and development] practices.”

One US think tank closely following enforcement of the JPOA, the Institute for Science and International Security, said in a report this week that the joint plan’s language implies Iran cannot expand those practices.

The report strongly suggested Iran is in violation of the agreement.

But Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Arkham dismissed suggestions the move may have breached last year’s interim deal with world powers.

The IR-5 – a significant upgrade from the models currently in use across Iran – was among ordinary machines belonging to Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Arkham said.

“Such tests were conducted before the Geneva agreement and have continued after the deal was reached,” she said late on Tuesday.

“Testing on the machines will be carried out and stopped depending on the need.”

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama formally continued the emergency status of relations with Iran on Wednesday, despite increased communications between the two governments.

“Because our relations with Iran have not yet returned to normal,” the president wrote in his notice to Congress, “and the process of implementing the agreements with Iran, dated January 19, 1981, is still under way, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared in Executive Order 12170 with respect to Iran.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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