Russia said on Thursday the possibility of lifting sanctions on Iran had emerged thanks to international talks on Tehran's nuclear program and urged all countries involved to show political will to reach a deal.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Friday to discuss the negotiations with six world powers on a decade-old stand-off over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
The talks between Iran and the United States, France, Russia, Britain, China and Germany failed to yield a deal by a July deadline and were extended by four months in view of remaining wide differences in negotiating positions.
They are expected to resume in September, with the aim of reaching a settlement by Nov. 24 that would scale back Iran's nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions that are severely hurting its oil-dependent economy.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said it still hoped a deal was possible no later than November.
“Despite the difficult course of the negotiating process, a possibility is emerging to satisfy in full all integral rights of Iran as a member state of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, including the right to enrich uranium and lifting the sanctions regime,” it said.
“We presume all parties in the talks will show political will to reach a final, mutually acceptable agreement that would allow to fully restore the international community's trust in the exclusively peaceful character of Iran's nuclear program.”
In Paris, French President Francois Hollande told French diplomats: “Iran must have the courage to take measures that show in a verifiable and uncontested way that it renounces it's military nuclear capacity.”
Iran denies Western accusations that it has been seeking the capability to assemble nuclear weapons.
A senior Western diplomat said there had been no narrowing of opinions on the issue of Iran's capacity to enrich uranium, an activity that can have both civilian and military uses.
“The core of the problem remains the number of centrifuges,” the diplomat said this week, referring to the machines uses to refine uranium. The six powers were ready to accept Iran having about 3,000-5,000 centrifuges but Tehran wants “a figure that allows them to have an industrial capacity”, the diplomat said.
Iran now has about 19,400 installed centrifuges at its enrichment plants, of which it is operating roughly half.
Earlier this month, Russia and Iran announced a large oil-for-food deal but gave no details of the accord, highlighting problems the two face in overcoming Western sanctions -- Moscow hit by recent economic curbs over Ukraine and Teheran struggling for years under the weight of tight restrictions.
The Friday talks are also expected to touch on Syria, where Moscow and Tehran have both thrown their weight behind President Bashar al-Assad, and the situation in Afghanistan.