'Some Very Difficult Understandings Yet to Reach'
Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen, quoting a western diplomat involved in nuclear negotiations, reported today that limited progress has been made toward a comprehensive nuclear agreement, but significant gaps remain. It is “doable, but difficult,” said the diplomat, who made the comments on Friday, after eight days of talks between Iran and P5+1.
“On the core issues, we remain far apart,” said the unnamed diplomat. “On enrichment we are not there yet. There are significant gaps, but we are still expecting significant moves from the Iranian side.” (Al-Monitor, 26 September)
Reuters also quoted a senior U.S. State Department official as saying that "serious gaps" in nuclear talks remain.
"We still have some very, very difficult understandings yet to reach, and everyone has to make difficult decisions and we continue to look to Iran some of the ones necessary for getting a comprehensive agreement," said the senior official. (Reuters, 27 September)
There were, however, conflicting signals about whether Iran and P5+1 had begun to narrow their differences on the enrichment issue, Al Monitor said. The AP reported the U.S. was probably ready to accept 4,500 IR-1 centrifuges if Iran reduced its current stockpile of enriched uranium to ensure a minimum one-year breakout time. Iran reportedly has been asking for maintaining its current 9,400 centrifuges, but ready to go down to perhaps 7,000 if needed. (Al-Monitor, 26 September)
In July, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei had called for 193,000 separative work units (SWUs), equivalent to some 200,000 IR-1 centrifuges, to be operational by 2021.
Meanwhile, the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said today that the meeting between Iran and P5+1 did not take place on Friday because of lack of progress in the talks. (ABC, 26 September)
But U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif, and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton held a late night meeting on Thursday and a second meeting on Friday to gauge progress in the talks.
The U.S. and EU have assured Iran that unilateral economic and trade sanctions will be lifted quickly after a nuclear deal.
UPDATE: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told reporters in a press conference in New York on Friday that progress in nuclear talks has been “extremely slow,” and significant steps will be needed to meet the 24 November deadline. Rouhani said a comprehensive nuclear agreement will be an agreement toward a path of collaboration. He also reminded his internal critics that it was important “to bear in mind majority of Iranian people voted for negotiations rather than against it.”