The E3+3 talks with Iran have reached a crucial stage: Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier most recently declared that a final agreement will be negotiated “with the greatest of care”, as the goal is an agreement that puts an end to the long-standing conflict with Iran and improves security in the entire Middle East.
These are critical days in Vienna, with a view to reaching a final agreement in the nuclear talks with Iran. For more than two weeks, the US, British, French, Russian, Chinese, German and Iranian foreign ministers have been engaged in intensive negotiations with the aim of reaching an agreement. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, is also participating in the talks. Palais Coburg in the centre of Vienna is the venue for the marathon negotiations.
Following the basic political agreement reached in Lausanne in April, the aim of the talks in Vienna is to achieve a final agreement in the negotiations, which have been ongoing for 12 years. Based on the meetings, the deadline for reaching an agreement was extended beyond 30 June. Foreign Minister Steinmeier and his counterparts are continuing to hold a number of talks in Vienna on this weekend (11 and 12 July), as well. These are taking place in the E3+3 group, with Iran, and in bilateral formats.
Talks are at a crucial stage
Commenting on the latest extension, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said: “This conflict with Iran is so dangerous and so important that we cannot go our separate ways here now without reaching an understanding and without having tried to achieve an agreement”. In an interview with the German TV news programme, Tagesthemen, he said that although an agreement had not yet been reached, the six E3+3 foreign ministers had made “substantial progress” with Iran on many technical issues.
After meeting with High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, US Secretary of State John Kerry commented on Sunday (12 July) via Twitter that there are still “difficult issues to resolve”. Kerry and Mogherini recently emphasised that difficult “historical political decisions” will need to be made soon.
Since 28 June, ministers and experts have been attending many rounds of talks during the day and often until late into the night. Foreign Minister Steinmeier travelled to Vienna several times for these meetings. His aim, which he shares with his counterparts, is to reach a sustainable compromise through talks held in various formats. He has said that a key point for ongoing negotiations was to ensure transparency and inspection access for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEO). Steinmeier’s visits to Vienna have also included discussions with Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Another important issue is the sequence in which sanctions can be lifted once Iran meets its commitments vis-à-vis the international community. Steinmeier emphasised that, in this regard, Iran must work to rebuild trust.
Aim of the agreement is to improve security in the Middle East
In an interview with the TV news programme Tagesthemen on 7 July, Steinmeier reiterated that the E3+3 partners did not want to put themselves under time pressure to conclude the negotiations. He pointed out that “it is not a matter of reaching some sort of agreement, but rather an agreement that puts an end to the long-standing conflict with Iran and improves security in the Middle East”. This also applied to Israel’s security. “This is why we need to negotiate with the greatest of care, down to the last clause and the last word, until the very end,” Foreign Minister Steinmeier said.
In an interview on Monday, 6 July, Steinmeier had underlined the great urgency of the talks, pointing out that there were “only two alternatives” in Vienna. “Either we will all have won together. (...) Or we will have failed, and this will mean everyone will have failed and that there will be no winner.” His hope was that all those involved were conscious of this “historic opportunity”. An agreement required courage and a willingness to compromise, he said. “I hope this courage exists, particularly in Tehran.”
“We’re not seeking to reach an agreement at any price,” Foreign Minister Steinmeier added. “What we want is to reach an agreement that rules out the development of nuclear weapons by Iran and helps to improve security in the entire Middle East region.”
Key parameters from Lausanne are essential
In an interview on 5 July with the German newspaper “Tagesspiegel am Sonntag”, Steinmeier had underlined that we must do everything we can, “even though the final steps will require another extraordinary effort”. In an interview with the German newspaper “Welt am Sonntag” (28 June) at the start of the latest round of talks in Vienna, Steinmeier had reiterated the need to meet the key parameters agreed in Lausanne in April 2015. “Each of these key parameters is essential for a final agreement,” he said.
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