Vienna, Austria: With most of the ministers out of town, the Vienna meeting on Iran Nuclear deal today entered the working hard phase and the expert groups took advantage of the time to grind through as many of the details as they possibly could and one of the teams met with their Iranian counterparts for six hours on Tuesday to finish an important round.
In between, US Secretary of State John Kerry has been telling those on the sidelines as he walks by: “People are working hard, we’re working hard.”
The other P5+1 ministers to come back into town over the weekend, probably Sunday.
What has emerged so far is that the P5+1 is staying coordinated through the political directors, who are obviously around and the ministers are getting reports from the teams regularly throughout the day, providing guidance, checking in with each other when necessary.
Kerry himself noted, he had two interactions with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif today. First time it was by chance when they just pulled each other aside for what was just a few minutes, and then the next meeting that took place towards the end of the day.
Almost every minister, including Zarif, who’s come through to check in on the process has said there is progress.
Despite the optimism on the progress front, till this evening, it was not clear what are the big issues that are not resolved.
A senior US Administration official, at a background briefing here, denied there was any deadline to close the deal and said: “eventually, this is going to have to come down to some significant political decisions that can only be made at the level of ministers, and even then, only by checking back with capitals. All the work that’s going on now is designed to close out as many issues as possible so that those don’t have to come to the ministers and then tee up the others for decision by the ministers when the time is right.”
It is apparent that the meetings at this stage in Vienna are revolving around the sanctions issue and the nuclear issue – something that is being denied by the main players. The US official said “there are very, very hard nuclear issues as well.”
When a journalist came up with a poswer stating: “what I understand from Iranian colleagues as well, that the timing of the sanctions relief – not the immediate, but they want the steps to be at the same time, and that that was something that they were very focused on”, the US Administration official said: “I think it’s safe to say that the Iranians have been very public about the fact that they want as much clarity as possible about how that process is going to work, and so to a very large extent the sanctions meetings have been focused on finding language that clarifies how things would proceed in the event of a deal.”
When a journalist observed that Iran in the past has opposed Westerners being part of an inspections team given that there is some concern regarding states that actually are nuclear-weapons states and have familiarity with what that would look like, the US official said: “this would be in the category of things that given the sensitivity of this particular issue, I’m not going to get into any of the details of the PMD discussion.He further said, “this would be in the category of things that given the sensitivity of this particular issue, I’m not going to get into any of the details of the PMD discussion.”