After days of negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme in Vienna, the E3+3 countries and Iran agreed on Monday afternoon to extend the nuclear talks. Prior to his departure, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who had travelled to Vienna with his counterparts from France, the UK, the United States, Russia, China and Iran, said that progress had been made in the negotiations and that he hoped “there is genuinely still a chance to reach agreement on this issue”.
After numerous rounds of negotiations in various formats, Foreign Minister Steinmeier said on Monday afternoon (24 November) that “despite excellent conditions for negotiations and a most constructive atmosphere during the talks, we have not come as far as we had hoped”. Although the negotiating partners had made progress and brought new ideas to the table, these still needed to be critically examined by experts, he added.
Now that an extension to the negotiations has been agreed on, Steinmeier said, all of those involved are obliged to “take this opportunity to end this dispute with both hands”. Steinmeier added:
We must make sure to seize the momentum that we have experienced here in Vienna. We may not rest on our laurels, but must continue to negotiate just as consistently and intensively in the coming days and weeks.
Of course, these discussions cannot be continued ad infinitum, the German Foreign Minister went on, but rather the negotiating partners should, if need be, "take just a few months to arrive at what is actually our joint aim: a framework agreement”.
Steinmeier said he believed that there would be another chance to achieve this in the coming months:
No one has left the negotiations depressed today. I think this sentiment is shared by all those involved, that there is really still a chance to reach agreement – and we will be looking for this chance.
Intensive talks at the bilateral level
Foreign Minister Steinmeier had travelled to Vienna on Saturday afternoon to meet the foreign ministers of the E3+3 countries – Germany, France, the UK, the United States, Russia and China – as well as Iran and EU negotiator Catherine Ashton in various formats. At Palais Coburg, Steinmeier met each of the negotiating partners for bilateral talks over the following days; he also attended numerous multilateral meetings of the negotiating partners.
On Monday afternoon, the talks culminated in a joint meeting of all negotiating partners around one table. After talks lasting about one hour, the leaders unanimously announced an extension to the nuclear negotiations.
Efforts to find a diplomatic agreement
To date, Iran has not fulfilled the conditions stipulated by the United Nations Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the suspension of its nuclear programme and has failed to cooperate comprehensively with the IAEA to clarify questions regarding the possible military dimension of the programme.
Together with the United States, Russia, China, France and the UK – the group known as E3+3 – Germany is working to find a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear conflict.
The foreign ministers of the E3+3 countries last met in Vienna on 13 July 2014 to take stock of the ongoing negotiations. The Geneva Joint Plan of Action signed last year originally envisaged an agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme by 24 November 2014.