GENEVA: United States (US) Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Geneva on Friday to join international talks on Iran’s disputed nuclear program, fuelling hopes a historic deal may be in sight.
Tehran and world powers ended a first day of talks Thursday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif saying a deal could be reached “before we close these negotiations.”
Negotiators from Iran and six global powers are meeting for two days in Geneva to broker a deal that could see Tehran freeze its nuclear efforts in exchange for some relief from the sanctions that have battered its economy.
Western powers suspect Iran’s uranium enrichment may be aimed at developing nuclear weapons, a claim Tehran denies.
Kerry will go to the Swiss city “in an effort to help narrow differences in negotiations” and at the invitation of European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, a senior State Department official said.
Upending an 11-day tour mostly of the Middle East, Kerry was due to arrive in Geneva on Friday for the talks which had dragged for years until new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani came to power in August.
Kerry, who was in Amman on Thursday, will first fly to Tel Aviv to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and his surprise decision to go to Geneva is sure to infuriate key US ally Israel. Iranian leaders in the past have denied the Holocaust and threatened to destroy the Jewish state.
Any deal with the Islamic republic would be “a mistake of historic proportions,” Netanyahu warned.
Iran’s Zarif was due to meet early Friday with Ashton, who is chairing the talks on behalf of the P5+1 group of world powers—permanent United Nations Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany.
In their second meeting in Geneva in less than a month, Iranian negotiators sat down for a series of talks that Western officials described as “substantive” and “productive.”
“There is a window of oppor-tunity now that has been created by the Iranian people . . . and that opportunity needs to be seized,” Zarif said.
‘Complicated, difficult and intensive’ talks
After the talks, a spokesman for Ashton said “we are making progress” but that it was too early to speak of an end game.
“I can’t give you any sort of final verdict yet,” said the spokesman, Michael Mann. “The ball is in their court.”