VIENNA — US Secretary of State John Kerry, arriving in Vienna late Nov. 20, said Iran and the six world powers are “driving towards what we believe is the outline of an agreement” ahead of a self-imposed Nov. 24 deadline for a comprehensive Iran nuclear accord.
“We’re not talking about an extension,” Kerry said Nov. 20 in Paris after a meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. “We’re talking about getting an agreement.”
Kerry said he and his counterparts were all “concerned about the gaps” remaining to finalize an accord, but “we’re driving towards what we believe is the outline of an agreement that we think we can have.”
“And look, if you get to the final hour and you’re in need of having to look at alternatives or something, we’ll look at them,” Kerry said.
France’s Fabius and British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond will arrive in Vienna on Friday to join the talks, UK and French officials said.
Kerry met for almost two hours with Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and European Union negotiator Catherine Ashton in Vienna the evening of Nov. 20.
“Key issues remain outstanding,” Robert Einhorn, a former member of the US-Iran nuclear negotiating team, told Al-Monitor Nov. 17.
“On the major issue of enrichment capacity, the Iranians … have continued to insist on retaining their existing operational capacity,” Einhorn, now at the Brookings Institution, said. “They need to come to the conclusion that reaching a deal requires them to accept a substantial cutback in existing operational enrichment capacity. … They seem only to be interested in a deal on their terms.”
“The [US] administration has a clear view of what’s needed, and if Iran is not prepared to show the necessary flexibility then there won’t be agreement on the key parameters of a deal,” Einhorn said, adding the prediction that in that case, “there will be an extension of the interim arrangement for several more months.”
But other analysts suggested last-minute horse trading and flexibility could emerge in this round of Vienna talks to try reach at least a framework accord.
“I think there is the [reasonable] possibility of a framework agreement announced next week,” former State Department Iran analyst Suzanne Maloney told Al-Monitor on Nov. 16. That would be better than failure, she said, but the “devil is in the details, and nailing down the details before January almost surely will get ugly.”
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