Both Iranian and US officials described the talks, which ran into an unexpected second day, as ‘tough’ and ‘serious’ but remained optimistic about a final deal. The Russian negotiator said he is optimistic that ‘the goal will be achieved’ by the November 24 deadline.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU’s chief negotiator Catherine Ashton chaired the plenary session of the P5+1 talks involving representatives from the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany.
Earlier in the day, the Iranian foreign minister met H H Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud al Said, Oman’s Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers. During the meeting, Zarif stressed on the friendly ties between both the nations and praised Oman’s role in hosting the crucial nuclear talks. The leaders also discussed the latest regional and international developments.
Tuesday’s meeting between Iran’s nuclear negotiating team and officials from the P5+1 started around 11.45am. The discussions were held to brief the P5+1 members on Zarif’s talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Kerry's top two negotiators, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns attended the P5+1 briefing which included technical experts on nuclear policy and sanctions.
Iran was represented by nuclear negotiators Abbas Araghchi and Majid Takht Ravanchi. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and deputies from the other four nations were also present.
“We are reasonably optimistic, but not to the extent that we are sure that this agreement will be achieved,” Ryabkov told mediapersons, adding that he was confident that by November 24 deadline 'the goal will be achieved'.
Araghchi, who is also Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, led the Iranian team into separate bilateral talks with the Russian and Chinese delegations.
The Iranians also held meetings with representatives of the EU3 (UK, France and Germany).
Focused on solutions
Speaking to Iranian journalists on Monday night, Araghchi described the talks as ‘tough and tense’. He said the negotiations were useful but that there hasn’t been any progress yet. Araghchi, however, expressed hope towards reaching an agreement by November 24. “All parties are serious about the talks and we intend to hold as many meetings as needed by the deadline.”
Araghchi asserted that although no agreement has been reached, the negotiations in Oman are progressing well, and in this round of talks the involved parties are fully focused on solutions and issues have been explicitly specified.
In Washington, the US State Department said that the Muscat round of talks were ‘tough, direct and serious’. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the US remains ‘very focused on making progress and seeing if we can get a deal done before the deadline’. “There's still time to do so,” she said.
According to an Associated Press report, Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is pushing for an agreement by the November 24 deadline, saying it is a ‘make-or-break moment’ and another opportunity is unlikely to arise soon.
Steinmeier said on Tuesday that flexibility and ‘strength of leadership’ on all sides are needed to seal a compromise. Steinmeier said he is ‘convinced that the situation won't come around again so soon’.
He said he fears that simply extending negotiations ‘won't bring the solution - not in the next two years’.