US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart held down-to-the-wire talks in Switzerland on Thursday, with US officials insisting the contours of a historic nuclear deal were in sight just days before a deadline.
“We very much believe that we can get this done by (March) 31,” said a senior State Department official travelling on Kerry’s plane to the Swiss lakeside city of Lausanne.
“We can see a path forward to get to an agreement, we can see what that path might look like,” the official told, cautioning however that this “doesn’t mean we’ll get there”.
Six world powers negotiating with Iran since late 2013 want Iran to disable parts of its nuclear infrastructure in order to put an atomic bomb out of reach and end a 12-year standoff.
After missing two deadlines in 2014 to turn a interim accord struck in November 2013 into a lasting deal, the parties set March 31 for a “framework” agreement with a full pact to be agreed by July.
But it remains unclear how detailed the framework between Iran and the six powers will be, particularly with the United States and France appearing split on the issue.
A senior European official also said any deal may only be an internal document, a fact sheet — or not a text at all.
The State Department official said the format of what, if anything, is agreed by March 31 was still under discussion but that it “needs to address in some way all of the major elements of a final agreement”.
“We have always said it needs to have specifics. We will need to communicate as many specifics as possible to the public in some form or fashion,” the official said.US President Barack Obama’s administration is under severe pressure from a hostile Congress to return from Lausanne with something concrete to show from his 18 months of talks with the Islamic Republic.