Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tells reporters there needs to flexibility if an agreement is to be reached. (Reuters: Brendan Smialowski/Pool)
The foreign ministers of France and Germany have joined top US and Iranian diplomats to help break an impasse that is preventing a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program.
The negotiations, in progress for nearly 18 months, aim to hammer out an accord whereby Iran halts sensitive nuclear work in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
Negotiators say the ultimate aim of the deal is to reduce the risk of a war in the Middle East.
US secretary of state John Kerry and Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have been in the Swiss city of Lausanne for days to try to reach a preliminary deal by a self-imposed deadline of March 31.
However, the two sides still have deep disagreements which are preventing a deal from being formalised.
We have, and are ready to make a good deal for all. We await our counterparts’ readiness.
Mr Zarif said the six powers – the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – are now the ones who must compromise.
“In negotiations, both sides must show flexibility,” Mr Zarif said on Twitter.
“We have, and are ready to make a good deal for all. We await our counterparts’ readiness.”
Nuclear negotiations reach ‘endgame’
Western officials close to the talks said it was up to Iran to compromise on the remaining sticking points, which include Tehran’s ambitions for nuclear research and development and the immediate removal of UN sanctions.
“The serious but difficult work continues,” a senior US State Department official said.
“We expect the pace to intensify as we assess if an understanding is possible.”
French foreign minister Laurent Fabius told reporters upon arrival in Lausanne that he hoped for “a robust agreement”.
“Iran has the right to civil nuclear power, but with regard to the atomic bomb, it’s ‘no’,” he said.
“We have moved forward on certain points, but on others not enough.”
Iran denies any ambition to build nuclear weapons and says its atomic program is for purely civilian purposes.
German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier compared the talks in Lausanne to the final stage of a mountain climb.
“The endgame of the long negotiations has begun,” he said.