US Secretary of State John Kerry has held talks with a group of European foreign ministers over Iran's nuclear program. Despite recognizing progress, the Western allies still see differences to overcome.
Kerry's visit to Paris on Saturday was aimed at conferring with the French, German and British foreign ministers - Laurent Fabius, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Philip Hammond - as well as the European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, about ongoing negotiations with Tehran over the Iranian nuclear program.
Progress, but also gaps to be bridged
Following a discussion with France's Fabius, Kerry said it was "up to Iran" to prove that its nuclear program is peaceful.
"We know what we are chasing after and we are chasing after the same thing," Kerry said. He and his French counterpart declared progress in the talks, which took place earlier this week in Switzerland. The French and US diplomats acknowledged big gaps that must be bridged in order to reach a deal by the end of March, the deadline that has been set by the negotiators.
Fabius said there were still differences to overcome with Iran. "We need a solid agreement, not only for us, but also for the whole region, for the security of the region, including for the Iranians," he added.
International powers ready to lower sanctions
Many suspect that Iran's nuclear program is geared towards the production of nuclear weapons, something that Iran denies.
The international powers are ready to offer Iran sanctions relief in return for Iran limiting its nuclear programs.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he was confident about the upcoming talks.
Reassuring Gulf states
The next round of talks is set to begin March 15. “We have a critical couple of weeks ahead of us," Kerry said. "But we are not feeling a sense of urgency that we have to get any deal. We have to get the right deal."
Kerry had flown into Paris from the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, where he tried to ease the fear of the Gulf countries over Iran's nuclear program.
ra/sms (dpa, AP)