Kerry be­gins last round of Iran talks as sharp di­vi­sions re­main

Tues­day is the dead­line to reach deal on nu­clear ca­pac­ity and sanc­tions

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY CAROL MORELLO carol.morello@wash­post.com

vi­enna — The fi­nal round of the Iran nu­clear talks be­gan Satur­day with Sec­re­tary of State John F. Kerry and Ira­nian For­eign-Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif cau­tion­ing that a lot of hard work lies ahead to reach a deal in the dwin­dling days be­fore a dead­line.

The two men and their ne­go­ti­at­ing teams talked with one another for nearly three hours in a small meet­ing room at the posh Palais Coburg ho­tel.

Asked whether they were op­ti­mistic that they would be suc­cess­ful this week, Kerry said: “Well, I think it’s fair to say that we’re hope­ful. We have a lot of hard work to do. There are some very tough is­sues, and I think we all look for­ward to get­ting down to the fi­nal ef­forts here to see whether or not a deal is pos­si­ble. I think ev­ery­body would like to see an agree­ment. But we have to work through some dif­fi­cult is­sues.”

Zarif con­curred but said that large dif­fer­ences re­main on sev­eral is­sues, known to in­clude the pace of sanc­tions re­lief and what kind of ac­cess will be pro­vided to in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tors mon­i­tor­ing Ira­nian com­pli­ance.

“I agree,” Zarif said. “Maybe not on the is­sues but on the fact that we need to work re­ally hard in or­der to be able to make progress and move for­ward. We are de­ter­mined to do ev­ery­thing we can to be able to make this im­por­tant mile­stone. Of course, that de­pends on a lot of things, and we’re go­ing to work on it.”

Af­ter the meet­ing with Zarif, Kerry was to meet later in the day with French For­eign Min­is­ter Lau­rent Fabius.

The ne­go­tia­tors are fac­ing a dead­line Tues­day for a fi­nal deal that aims to limit Iran’s ca­pac­ity to pro­duce nu­clear weapons and to ease sanc­tions that have been in place for decades.

A frame­work agree­ment, reached April 2, out­lines the ba­sic el­e­ments of a deal, and it was hailed as a break­through. Since then, though, ne­go­tia­tors have been stuck on the pre­cise de­tails.

Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters, Iran’s supreme leader, Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, re­cently listed seven “ma­jor red lines” that ap­pear to back­track on what Iran is will­ing to con­cede.

Khamenei in­sists that eco­nomic and bank­ing sanc­tions must be lifted the day an agree­ment is con­cluded, not in phases as Iran is seen as liv­ing up to its com­mit­ments. And he has said that in­spec­tors from the In­ter­na­tional Atomic Energy Agency will not have ac­cess to Iran’s nu­clear sci­en­tists or mil­i­tary sites, hin­der­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion of sur­rep­ti­tious work that could be used to build nu­clear weapons.

In­tense talks have been go­ing on for more than a year and a half. In these fi­nal days, the talks are ham­pered by the ab­sence of Ali Ak­bar Salehi, the head of Iran’s atomic energy agency. Salehi was in­stru­men­tal in talk­ing with U.S. Energy Sec­re­tary Ernest Moniz, both MIT-ed­u­cated nu­clear physi­cists who worked on the highly com­plex tech­ni­cal de­tails needed to sat­isfy the con­cerns of Iran and the six world pow­ers that are also ne­go­ti­at­ing. Salehi is re­cov­er­ing from surgery last month to re­pair a per­fo­rated bowel. He is ex­pected to call in to the talks.

This is Kerry’s first trip over­seas since he broke a leg in a bi­cy­cle ac­ci­dent May 31 af­ter a day of talks with Zarif in Geneva. He is able to move about on crutches — or “sticks,” as he calls them — and was raised by a mech­a­nized lift to the air­craft that brought him to Vi­enna on Fri­day.

In ad­di­tion, Zarif is known to have chronic back prob­lems ex­ac­er­bated by the long ne­go­ti­at­ing ses­sions in which they sit for hours at a time.

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