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The experts will also stay in Vienna longer this time to provide support and assistance to the political directors.
At the previous round of talks in Vienna, experts found the key to solving a half of the unsettled issues. The sides managed to bridge the gap in their positions on the uranium enrichment programme and the Arak reactor, international nuclear cooperation and the lifting of sanctions. This time they will have to address the remaining issues, including the most sensitive aspects of a possible military component of the Iranian nuclear program.
A diplomatic source said there were no major disagreements over the issues discussed. But there is no final understanding on how to rearrange the work of the Arak reactor and which projects could be implemented in an international format.
The source said some proposals had been put forth, but they needed to be sorted out and formalised in a document. Work to draft such document should begin within a month.
The full-format round of talks between P5+1 international mediators with the participation of Ashton and the Iranian delegation led by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was held in Vienna on March 17-19. They discussed a comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme on the basis of the Joint Plan of Action approved in Geneva on November 24, 2013.
The participants discussed sanctions, Iran’s enrichment activities, international cooperation with Iran in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy, and ways to resolve concerns over the heavy water reactor in Iran’s Arak.
They agreed to continue intensive contacts between the P5+1 and Iran at the political and technical levels. Experts will meet again in early April. Their consultations will be followed by full-format talks in Vienna on April 7-9.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Aragchi said the next round of talks on a final nuclear agreement would be held on April 7-9. He termed the atmosphere at the ongoing Vienna II talks as “good but also frank and serious”.
“Today’s discussions were definitely useful,” the IRNA news agency quoted him as saying on March 19. “Aragchi said that while today’s meetings featured the issue of enrichment, peaceful nuclear cooperation and the removal of sanctions, tomorrow’s talks would zoom on the Arak heavy water reactor,” he said.
While Aragchi stressed that the question of trust was “very important”, he also made clear that the “main challenge” was to address the issue of mistrust, IRNA said.
He reaffirmed that confidence-building measures were a major part of any agreement.
He said the talks were moving well and described them as “very substantive, serious and useful.”
Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said she was optimistic about chances to sign a comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue.
The agreement must become reality, she said. At the same time, she noted that the sides were at the very beginning of the process that should lead to a comprehensive agreement.
“We will meet again on 7 to 9 April 2014 in Vienna and continue our work on the substantial areas which we intend to cover in a comprehensive agreement. In the meantime, technical experts will meet to further elaborate on the details of the relevant issues,” she said.
“Everyone is in the working mood and there are grounds to hope that progress will be achieved but without crucial agreements since this is only the second round,” the diplomat said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed hope that the second round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 would lead to the final agreement that will resolve all remaining questions about the Iranian nuclear programme.
“We want the second round to end with the final agreement that will close all questions concerning the Iranian nuclear programme and stop the sanctions,” he said.
The interim nuclear deal made on November 24, 2013, called for taking the first step of reciprocal actions to prove good faith in a six-month period to be followed by negotiations for a comprehensive agreement, according to which the Western governments will acknowledge the Iranian nuclear programme as civilian.
The deal was called the first step to be followed by a comprehensive agreement, which, on the one hand, should resolve the international community’s concerns about the Iranian nuclear programme and, on the other hand, remove economic sanctions that slow down Iran’s economic development.
The agreement reached by and between Iran and the P5+1 (five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany) in Geneva last year became effective on January 20.