MUNICH: Secretary of State John Kerry stressed to his Iranian counterpart on Friday that the US aimed to meet a late March deadline for a deal reining in Iran’s nuclear programme.
Kerry “reiterated our desire to move toward a political framework by the end of March”, a senior US official said after the secretary met Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for two hours in Munich.
Also read: US, Iran in intensive talks to clinch N-deal
The US top diplomat arrived in southern Germany late on Thursday, flying in from Kiev where he met Ukrainian leaders amid a new diplomatic push to end the deadly conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Global powers have been struggling for more than a year to pin down a comprehensive deal to rein in Iran’s suspect nuclear programme, after an interim accord was struck in November 2013.
After missing two previous deadlines, the group known as the P5+1 — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States — set a March 31 deadline for a political agreement.
That would be followed by a final deal setting out all the technical points of what would be a complex accord by June 30.
But the atmosphere has been complicated by hardliners both in Iran and the United States, with US lawmakers threatening to impose new sanctions on Iran if the March deadline is missed.
So far, Iran has frozen some of its nuclear enrichment programme in return for limited sanctions relief.
“We face a major opportunity in resolving the Iranian nuclear issue. China is ready to enhance communication and cooperation with relevant parties to work for the early conclusion of a just, balanced and comprehensive agreement”, China’s State Councillor Yang Jiechi told the Munich Security Conference.
But in a renewed sign of tensions, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani berated the world’s nuclear powers on Wednesday, saying atomic weapons had not kept them safe, and reiterating his country was not seeking the bomb.
He avoided explicit mention of the ongoing nuclear talks, but accused atomic-armed states of hypocrisy.
“They tell us ‘we don’t want Iran to make atomic bombs’, you who have made atomic bombs,” Rouhani said.
Kerry and Zarif have met many times over the past months, mostly in European capitals, as they have sought to hammer out a deal. Their political teams have also been negotiating behind the scenes.
Both diplomats were in Germany to take part in the annual security conference that this year will focus on the “collapse of the global order,” and which US Vice President Joe Biden is also attending.
Government leaders from around the world will discuss the conflict in Ukraine, war in Syria, the threat from Islamic State jihadists and other crises from Ebola to refugees.
On Saturday, Kerry is due to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov for talks focusing on Syria, Ukraine and the Iranian nuclear programme.
Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2015