News / Middle East

Kerry Travels to Geneva as Iran, Six Powers Making Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran's Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Reza Najafi (l) and IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Safeguards Tero Tapio Varjoranta, right, deliver a statement after their meeting at the International Center
Iran's Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Reza Najafi (l) and IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Safeguards Tero Tapio Varjoranta, right, deliver a statement after their meeting at the International Center
Reuters
— U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Geneva on Friday in an effort to help secure a nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, a senior U.S. State Department official said.

"Secretary Kerry will travel to Geneva, Switzerland on Friday at the invitation of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton in an effort to help narrow differences in negotiations" the official said.

Iran and six world powers appeared to be edging towards a preliminary deal on its nuclear activity on Thursday, citing progress in talks capitalizing on a diplomatic opening from Tehran, though it cautioned that the discussions were “tough”.
 
The United States said the powers would consider relaxing some sanctions against Iran if it takes verifiable steps to limit its nuclear program - a long elusive compromise that could reduce the risk of another Middle East war.
 
Lending urgency to the process, a U.S. Senate committee said it would pursue a package of tough new sanctions on Iran after the current Geneva talks end on Friday. Any more punitive sanctions would torpedo hopes for a deal, Iran has warned.
 
President Barack Obama has urged Congress to hold off on more steps to isolate Iran, as called for by its arch-enemy Israel, to avoid derailing prospects for a deal the powers hope will deter any Iranian advance towards nuclear arms capability.
 
A spokesman for the European Union foreign policy chief - who is presiding over the talks - said on Thursday evening that the powers and Iran were “making progress” towards easing a decade-long standoff over Iran's nuclear intentions.
 
Michael Mann said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton would meet Iran's foreign minister and chief negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Friday morning “to allow more time to work through some issues”. Diplomats from the six nations would also meet early on Friday to prepare Ashton's talks with Zarif.
 
Zarif told Reuters earlier in the day: “The talks went well ... I'm hopeful that we can move forward. We are making progress, but it's tough.”
 
In an interview with CNN later, Zarif suggested that a partial suspension of Iran's contested uranium enrichment campaign might be possible - a concession it ruled out before moderate President Hassan Rouhani's landslide election in June.
 
“There won't be a suspension of our enrichment program in its entirety,” Zarif said, rejecting Israel's central demand.
 
But he said he hoped the sides would agree a joint statement on Friday stipulating a goal to be reached “within a limited period of time, hopefully in less than a year”, and a series of reciprocal actions they would take “to build confidence and address their most immediate concerns.
 
“I believe it is possible to reach an understanding or an agreement before we close these negotiations tomorrow evening.”
 
Iran says it is enriching uranium only to fuel future  nuclear power stations and wants the powers to start lifting harsh sanctions severely damaging the OPEC giant's economy.

Related video report by VOA's Meredith Buel:

Iranians Deeply Divided Over Nuclear Talksi
X
November 07, 2013 10:53 PM
As talks between Iran and world powers reportedly show progress in resolving issues over Tehran's nuclear program, there are rifts within Iran over moves to improve relations with the West. Hardliners and moderates are especially at odds over efforts to end the long era of hostility between Iran and the United States. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

Breakthrough far from certain
 
The powers are aiming for a “first step” deal to allay suspicions the Islamic Republic, which has concealed nuclear work from U.N. inspectors in the past and continues to restrict their access, is covertly seeking the means to produce atomic bombs. But both sides said a breakthrough was no certainty.
 
The United States said it also held “substantive and serious” bilateral talks with Iran in Geneva - direct dialog inconceivable before Rouhani took office pledging to build bridges abroad and end a slide towards conflict with the West.
 
Iran and the United States have had no diplomatic ties since soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed monarchy, and their mutual mistrust and enmity has posed the biggest obstacle to any breakthrough nuclear accord.
 
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that in exchange for “concrete, verifiable measures” of restraint by Iran, the six powers “would consider limited, targeted, and reversible relief that does not affect our core sanctions architecture”.
 
The broader sanctions regime would stay pending a “final, comprehensive, verifiable” accord, Carney told reporters. If Iran did not follow through towards this end, modest sanctions relief could be reversed and stiffer penalties imposed.
 
The U.S. Senate Banking Committee chairman declared the panel was moving forward on a proposal for new sanctions, a step likely to please Israel which has campaigned against compromise proposals under discussion in Geneva, describing them as potentially “a mistake of historic proportions”.
 
Senator Tim Johnson, a Democrat, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid instructed him to bring the bill closer to a vote by the full Senate by calling for a debate on it.
 
Diplomacy vulnerable to hardliners at home
 
Both sides have limited leeway for compromise, with conservative hardliners in Tehran and in Washington likely to denounce any concession they regard as going too far.
 
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said after the morning meetings that he hoped a deal could be struck but     “the differences are widespread and deep. This is undeniable”.
 
The Iranian delegation held a series of meetings - one with all three European delegations, then, separately, with the Russians, the Chinese and the Americans.
 
Araqchi met for an hour with U.S. delegation chief Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, in a meeting that a senior State Department official described as a “substantive and serious conversation”.
 
Rolling back nuclear program?
 
The United States and its allies say they are encouraged by Tehran's shift to emollient rhetoric since the election of Rouhani. But Western allies say Iran must back its words with action and take concrete steps to scale back its atomic work.
 
Washington says that would buy time for Iran and the powers to reach a broader diplomatic settlement and avert any war that could cause global economic upheaval.
 
The exact nature of a possible first step remain unclear. But the six global powers are unlikely to agree on anything less than a suspension of enrichment of uranium to 20 percent fissile purity, a level that constitutes a technical milestone not far from the threshold for a nuclear warhead.
 
They want Iran to convert its stockpile of 20 percent uranium to an oxide form suitable for processing into reactor fuel, and take other measures to slow the program.
 
In return for any concessions, Iran wants the powers to lift the sanctions that have slashed its oil revenues by 60 percent since 2011 and cut the value of its currency in half.
 
The U.S. official said Iran at this stage must address important aspects of its nuclear activity, including more intrusive U.N. inspections. Iran's construction of a research reactor near the town of Arak is also a growing concern for the West because of its potential to yield plutonium for bombs.
 
A senior aide to a U.S. senator briefed by the White House and State Department said Washington would offer to work with Iran in a six-month confidence-building period. During that time Washington would offer Tehran, among other things, relaxed restrictions on Iranian funds held in overseas accounts.
 
Western diplomats involved in the talks are hesitant to divulge specifics about the discussions due to sensitivities involved. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he disliked the outlines of an initial deal being hinted at in Geneva since it would allow Iran to keep a nuclear capability.
 
“Israel totally opposes these proposals,” he said in a speech. “I believe that adopting them would be a mistake of historic proportions. They must be rejected outright.”
 
Widely assumed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, Israel views Iran as a threat to its existence and has warned it could carry out pre-emptive strikes on Iranian nuclear sites if diplomacy fails to restrain the program.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid