Again Western powers and Iran are pursuing difficult talks on Tehran's controversial nuclear file regardless of latest deadlines for a final framework deal, amid contradictory reports about the extent of the discussions' advance.
Ministers and officials representing Iran and six major powers; the US, Germany, Russia, Britain, China and France, are due to re-sit at the negotiating table with the aim of thrashing out some remaining issues, namely mechanisms of lifting western and international sanctions on Iran and the final framework deal.
Conference insiders affirm that the Iran-West negotiation have reached "a very hard phase," due to disagreement over several key issues, namely a mechanism for lifting the curbs, with the Iranians pushing for immediate and total lifting of the sanctions and the Western powers seeking their partial removal, with a mechanism to re-place the curbs in the event Iran dishonored commitments in the future.
According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the talks have made some headway with respect of supervision mechanisms on the Iranian nuclear installations by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). However, the Iranians have expressed caution toward the approach to devise a revisable timetable of the agreement and put the aspired accord in a testing period for several years.
A final deadline for a framework deal fell on Tuesday, but the snags remained on the table, thus officials said the two sides would re-sit later today in a fresh bid to tackle the remaining unresolved issues.
The talks have dragged on amid reported disagreements on various topics, namely number of centrifuges Iran would be allowed to retain, mechanisms of supervising its nuclear program and required transparency to ensure that Tehran would not seek to make a nuclear bomb.
The contentious issues include whether Tehran is entitled to retain amounts of enriched uranium, steps and timetable for lifting multiple sanctions on Tehran. One idea on the table is relieving Tehran of the curbs in stages in 10 years' time.
Despite lack of a major breakthrough, analysts have stopped short of labelling the negotiations as "a failure," noting that there had been a series of deadlines in the past and that the complex file has technical, legal and political dimensions.
In a statement in Washington, the White House confirmed that the negotiators at the Swiss resort decided to continue the talks with Iran over its nuclear program past the latest deadline, "if the negotiations continue to be productive." "The international community, standing alongside the United States, is seeking very specific and very serious commitments from the Iranians to shut down every pathway they have to a nuclear weapon, and to agree to intrusive inspections to verify their compliance with the agreement," it said in a statement.
The powers hope a full agreement, due to be finalized by June 30, will see Iran scale back its nuclear capability to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian program.
Western powers are seeking to ensure Iran would not press ahead with schemes to make nuclear bombs, but Tehran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and maintains its right to develop nuclear potentials for non-military purposes.