Iran nuclear deal: With deadline looming, US tells Iran to consider extending talks
The U.S. told Iran on Sunday that it’s time to consider extending nuclear talks, in the first formal recognition by Washington that frenzied last-minute diplomacy may not be enough to seal a deal by a rapidly approaching deadline.
A senior U.S. official said that with the Monday evening cutoff date a little more than a day away, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry proposed to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Java Zarf that the two sides start discussing post-deadline talks in their latest meeting since Kerry arrived three days ago to add his diplomatic weight to the talks.
At the same time, two Western diplomats said, negotiations were continuing with Iran on trying to bridge differences on reducing Tehran’s ability to make nuclear weapons to levels acceptable to Washington while giving the Islamic republic the relief it seeks from international sanctions over its atomic activities.
All three officials demanded anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the diplomatic twists and turns of talks that have been under a blanket of confidentiality since the sides started negotiating a comprehensive nuclear deal eight months ago.
The U.S. official said a number of options were under discussion.
“An extension is one of those options,” the official said. “It should come as no surprise that we will also engage in a discussion of the options with the Iranians at some point as well.”
Foreshadowing the developments, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told German television: “If there isn’t quite a conclusion, we will have to search for possibilities to ensure that nothing breaks off here and the process can be continued.”
But reaching an agreement that allows for more negotiations could be difficult. Beyond assurances that the Iranians aren’t just talking for the sake of winning time, the U.S. administration wants to show to congressional skeptics that there is sense to continuing the talks. That means Washington might push the Iranians to accept at least one of their demands on the table.