Iran and the major powers have accelerated it in Vienna on Sunday, hoping finally finalizing a historic agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, ready to “98%” after more than two weeks of fierce negotiations.
“It happens to real decisions,” said the chief US diplomat John Kerry on Sunday morning, following discussions qualified “positive” with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“We have a small number of difficult to resolve issues, but I remain optimistic,” added the Secretary of State, who attended Sunday Mass in St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
Echoing her European counterpart, Federica Mogherini, tweeted that negotiations had entered “decisive hours”.
The night before, a source close to the negotiations told AFP that “98% of the text was finished,” and that it was now “political decisions” to overcome the last two or three locking points.
For fifteen days the P5 + 1 group (the US, Russia, China, France, UK and Germany) tries to finalize an agreement with Iran that would guarantee the exclusively civilian nature of its nuclear program in exchange for lifting of international sanctions.
Discussions supposed to end on June 30 were postponed three times with yet another deadline fixed Monday.
As we approach that date, the pace has accelerated meetings Saturday with exchanges at ministerial level until the middle of the night between Messrs. Kerry, Zarif and their French, German, British and European.
The diplomatic ballet continued Sunday.
Absent for several days in the Austrian capital, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was expected in the afternoon in the Coburg Palace, home to the talks.
The head of French diplomacy Laurent Fabius left at dawn to Paris to discuss the Greek crisis with President Francois Hollande. But he had to return to Vienna in mid-day, according to a diplomatic source.
The goal of these efforts? Close a folder that is poisoning international relations for over 12 years.
The Islamic Republic is suspected of having led until 2003, and perhaps beyond, a military nuclear program under the guise of a civilian program, which she always denied.
Since 2006, the United States, the EU and the UN have adopted several rounds of sanctions against Tehran, which stifle the economy of this country of 77 million inhabitants.
“Diktats of Iran”
Since September 2013, both sides are trying to find an agreed solution, but an agreement has shifted several times because of the complexity of the case and its issues.
In April in Lausanne, the negotiators had hard won agreement on broad principles. Iran had agreed in particular to reduce the number of its centrifuges or its enriched uranium stockpile which in practice must make almost impossible the making of an atomic bomb.
Since then, experts from both parties continued the negotiations to define the practical details of the final agreement.
The negotiations have stumbled so far including the lifting of restrictions on arms, claimed by Tehran with Moscow’s support. Westerners consider this delicate demand because of Iranian involvement in several conflicts, including in Syria or Iraq.
Another point of disagreement: the pace of lifting the sanctions. The Iranians want an immediate commitment from their partners, but they are planning a gradual lifting and the ability to go back in case of violation of the agreement.
The P5 + 1 also requires that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have access to military sites “if necessary”, which reject some Iranian military officials.
Finally, the two camps are fighting over the terms of clauses imposed on Iran.
If an agreement is signed in Vienna, he will mark a normalization of relations between Iran and the international community. He faces the hostility of Sunni regional powers and Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday that still oppose it.
“Perhaps there are people in the world powers who are willing to surrender to the dictates of Iran and its endless calls to destroy Israel, but we will not accept” a-t- he said at the opening of the council of ministers.