Iran ‘open’ to extending nuclear negotiations by up to one year

The United States and Iran sought Sunday to bridge gaps in negotiations on the eve of a deadline for a nuclear deal, as Iran signalled it was open to extending the talks by up to a year. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry went into a fifth round of talks in Vienna with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif ahead of Monday’s deadline. The two key players in the protracted on-off negotiations have been trying since Thursday to secure a deal that would curb Iran’s disputed nuclear activities in exchange for broad relief from punishing international sanctions. It could end a 12-year standoff that has even raised the prospect of Israeli military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called the weekend of talks a “moment of truth”.

We’re working hard, and we hope we’re making careful progress, but we have big gaps, we still have some serious gaps, which we’re working to close.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

An Iranian source told AFP that Tehran is open to having the nuclear negotiations extended by six months or a year if no real progress towards an agreement is achieved later Sunday. Such an extension would be under the terms of an interim accord reached in Geneva a year ago that traded a temporary freeze on some aspects of Iran’s nuclear activities for limited sanctions relief, the source said. The source said Iran was still focused on agreeing to a kind of political understanding that would not be written but that would allow for negotiators to fine-tune technical aspects of the agreement later. “But if between now and this afternoon or this evening we don’t get there, the solution is we consider an extension of the Geneva accord,” he said.