Aerial view of Tehran.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
VIENNA – Foreign ministers from world powers converged once again on Austria’s capital on Sunday, hoping to finally end talks with Iran over its nuclear program with a deal.
The agreement is essentially complete, Iranian officials here say, and will be formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. But the highly-anticipated agreement was not announced on Sunday, as many had expected, after pronouncements from Iranian officials suggested a deal was imminent.
Midday Sunday, a senior US State Department official warned journalists against “speculation” over the timing of an agreement, saying that “major issues” remained unresolved in the talks. The official did not elaborate.
Kerry says hopeful on Iran nuclear deal
While the foreign ministers of Russia and China arrived after several days of absence, their British counterpart left for London. His staff said he would return on Monday morning when the interim Joint Plan of Action is set to expire.
Its new expiration date is the third of its kind in just two weeks. The talks have been ongoing for 16 straight days.
Negotiations went past midnight on Saturday, and began around 8 a.m. on Sunday morning between top negotiators from the US, European Union and Iran.
US Secretary of State John Kerry prayed in the city’s central church, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Sunday morning, before returning to the luxury Palais Coburg hotel to meet with his delegates.
“I think we’re getting to some real decisions,” Kerry said. “So I will say, because we have a few tough things to do, I remain hopeful.”
Returning to Vienna from an emergency meeting in Paris on the situation in Greece, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also expressed “hope” that the moment of decision had finally come.
“I hope, I hope, that we are finally entering the final phase of this marathon negotiation,” Fabius told gathered press.
Iranian delegates, too, cautioned that some issues remain for the ministers from each participating nation at the talks – the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, with Iran – to settle together and for themselves. A meeting of all the foreign ministers, in one room, is expected on Monday.
But none have detailed precisely what those issues are, with 98 percent of the text said to be complete. The document is understood to be 20 pages of core text with over 80 pages of detailed, technical annexes.
Celebrations are expected in the streets of Tehran upon the announcement of a deal. Iranian state-run media, IRNA, says the Tehran police department is preparing to provide the security necessary to maintain order at the rallies.
World powers seek to cap, restrict, monitor and partially roll back Iran’s nuclear program to ensure that it cannot acquire a nuclear weapon. In exchange for curbs and intrusive inspections, powers will phase out their restrictions over time and will provide swift sanctions relief.