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Nuclear talks with Iran extended: negotiations must be concluded with the greatest of care

08.07.2015 - Article

Foreign Minister Steinmeier underlined that the goal was an agreement that puts an end to the long‑standing conflict with Iran and improves security in the entire Middle East.

The current E3+3 talks with Iran in Vienna were extended again on Tuesday (7 July). Explaining the reasons for the extension, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said that the negotiating partners did not want to put themselves under pressure, but rather to conclude the talks “with the greatest of care”, as the goal was an agreement that puts an end to the long‑standing conflict with Iran and improves security in the entire Middle East.

Steinmeier and Mogherini talking on the margins of the negotiations
Steinmeier and Mogherini talking on the margins of the negotiations© Photothek/Imo

These are critical days in Vienna. What are the chances of a final agreement being reached in the nuclear talks with Iran? Countless observers in Vienna and elsewhere are asking themselves this question. Palais Coburg in the centre of Vienna is the venue for the talks between the US, British, French, Russian, Chinese, German and Iranian foreign ministers. The EU is represented by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

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. The talks were extended again on Tuesday (7 July).

E3+3 talks on Tuesday morning (7 July)
E3+3 talks on Tuesday morning (7 July)© Photothek/Imo

Progress on technical issues

“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,” Foreign Minister Steinmeier said in Vienna on Tuesday evening. 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.

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 the talks. His aim, which he shares with his counterparts, is to reach a sustainable compromise through talks held in various formats. Speaking on Tuesday, he said that a key point for the ongoing negotiations was to ensure transparency and inspection access for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEO).

Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the talks with Iran in Vienna
Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the talks with Iran in Vienna© Photothek/Imo

Another important issue was the question of the timeline for lifting the sanctions if Iran meets the conditions set by the international community. Steinmeier underlined that it was up to Iran to help rebuild trust.

Aim of the agreement is to improve security in the Middle East

In an interview with the TV news programme Tagesthemen on Tuesday, 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.

Steinmeier and Zarif during their talks
Steinmeier and Zarif during their talks© Photothek/Imo

Ruling out the development of nuclear weapons by Iran

In an interview on 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.”

View across the roofs of central Vienna
View across the roofs of central Vienna© Photothek/Imo

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”. He reiterated that it was important for an agreement that the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency “have access to absolutely all facilities”.

In addition to attending many talks with the E3+3 partners and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Steinmeier’s schedule also included a meeting with Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. 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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