Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is set to join his US counterpart, John Kerry and other world powers in Geneva for talks on Iran’s nuclear program. It is hoped a breakthrough is imminent.
Along with Westerwelle and Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Britain's William Hague and France's Laurent Fabius are set to meet in the Swiss city on Saturday, hopeful of a breakthrough in negotiations surrounding Iran's nuclear ambitions.
After three days of intense talks, Iran and the US spoke late Friday of a potential breakthrough in talks over Tehran's nuclear program as negotiators from the six world powers waited for foreign ministers to touch down in Geneva.
Tehran, and six other world powers, known as the P5+1 nations - referring to Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany - want Iran to curb, or stop altogether parts of its nuclear program, in exchange for easing some sanctions that have crippled its economy.
Should a deal be achieved, it would only be valid for several months, giving negotiators more time to settle on a broader-reaching agreement. Under that accord sanctions would be lifted permanently, once the six nations were satisfied Iran has no intention of making nuclear weapons.
“We made certain progress in the negotiations, which brought us closer to a breakthrough,” Tehran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said late Friday.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif claimed all but two issues required solving on Saturday.
As a result of that progress, US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said Secretary of State John Kerry would arrive in Geneva on Saturday “with the hope that an agreement can be reached.”
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is leading the talks.
Iran has claimed that its nuclear program is for peaceful and scientific purposes.
Two weeks ago, foreign ministers of the P5+1, travelled to Switzerland, raising international expectations an agreement would be forthcoming.
Those talks failed to reach an agreement which would have been the first diplomatic breakthrough since Iran's nuclear ambitions came to light a decade ago.
“These are tough challenging negotiations. It's not easy to get to the finish line,” US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in Washington.
Should the parties leave Geneva without a deal, Iran could expand its program, the US and other nations could add to the list of already existing sanctions. Should the parties reach an agreement, Iran would get minor, "reversible" sanctions relief, including unlocking several billion dollars in oil revenues stuck in international bank accounts.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the two sides were working through "details and wording." Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said "differences of views" remain, but told Iran's IRNA news agency that "we regained some of our lost trust."
US and Israel
The negotiations have alarmed many in Israel - widely assumed to have a formidable nuclear arsenal itself - with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu campaigning tirelessly against any deal. Netanyahu wants all, not part, of Iran's nuclear infrastructure dismantled, believing that a compromise with the P5+1 could leave the country with the ability to develop weapons.
"You are not really dismantling any capacity to make fissile material for nuclear weapons," he said in an interview this week with Germany's Bild, the country's top-selling newspaper.
jlw/jm (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)