Top US, EU officials in Geneva to push for Iran deal amid Israeli protest
A general view taken on November 7, 2013 shows participants before the start of two days of closed-door nuclear talks in Geneva. (AFP Photo / Fabrice Coffrini)
Diplomatic heavyweights including US Secretary of State John Kerry have flown to Geneva for nuclear talks on Iran, in a sign that there could be an end to a decade-long deadlock. However, Israel has resolved to reject any proposal under discussion.
Diplomatic heavyweights including US Secretary of State John Kerry have flown to Geneva for nuclear talks on Iran, in a sign that there could be an end to a decade-long deadlock. Israel has resolved to reject any proposal under discussion, however.
Leading diplomats from the six powers negotiating with Iran – the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – have rushed to Geneva for talks that could see a landmark deal with Tehran reached.
In a statement, the State Department said Kerry, interrupting a 10-day visit to the MidEast, was aiming“to narrow the differences in negotiations.”
In contrast to previous meetings, which were marked by the absence of some of the attending countries’ main representatives, the P5+1 are sending in their top brass to work out an agreement.
Among the senior representatives present are UK Foreign Minister William Hague, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and France’s Laurent Fabius.
France’s top diplomat said they were going to address the issue of Tehran’s alleged nuclear weapons program head-on.
“We want a deal that brings a solid first response to worries linked to Iran's nuclear [program]," Fabius said on arrival in Geneva, according to a foreign ministry statement. "There is progress, but nothing is concluded yet.”
The West suspects that Iran is enriching uranium with a view to developing nuclear arms, something that Tehran has consistently denied. While the Iranian government has refused to stop enriching uranium, it has said that it will take steps to allay fears they are building atomic weapons.
As part of the concessions, Iran has proposed to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent and limit its use of centrifuges. Moreover, Tehran would pledge to only enrich uranium to 3.5 percent purity, which is just enough for a nuclear power plant but far from sufficient for constructing a bomb. Finally, Iran would agree not to activate its plutonium reactor at Arak for a period of six months.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has hinted that a landmark agreement may be in the cards. On Thursday he told press that a deal could be reached "before we close these negotiations.”
Tehran is pushing for the international community to lift financial penalties that have crippled Iran’s economy.
In spite of the international push to resolve the stalemate that has frozen relations with Iran for a decade, Israel has voiced its fervent opposition to the negotiations. Just 72 hours ahead of the meeting in Geneva, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an appeal to Kerry, branding the concessions Tehran has promised as false.
“They wanted relief from sanctions after years of a grueling sanctions regime. They got that. They are paying nothing because they are not reducing in any way their nuclear enrichment capability,” Netanyahu said.
The Israeli leader underlined that Israel “utterly rejects” any compromise that comes out of the talks and said that anything less than the full dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear facilities would be unacceptable.