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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid