As Iranian nuclear talks went into a seventh day on Wednesday after a midnight deadline for a framework deal was missed, Iran and major powers were sending out contradictory signals.
The negotiations are aimed at agreeing the main contours of an accord meant to convince the world that Iran will not obtain nuclear weapons. It has to be finalised by June 30.
With foreign ministers having haggled into the early hours — and technical experts all night — here are some of the latest quotes from the nail-biting past few hours. “One can say with relative certainty that we at the minister level have reached an agreement in principle on all key aspects of the final settlement of this issue,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at an early hours briefing, strictly for Russian media only.
The “agreement in principle… will be put on paper in the coming hours or perhaps within one day.” Lavrov later took off for Moscow.
“We have accomplished quite a bit, but people needed to get some rest and start over early in the morning. I hope that we can finalise the work on Wednesday,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said just before 2:00 am.
“All issues have not been agreed,” a senior US official said in response.
“We’ve made enough progress in the last days to merit staying until Wednesday. There are several difficult issues still remaining,” US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said a few hours earlier.
“I think we have a broad framework of understanding but there are still some key issues that have to be worked through,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.
“Some of them are quite detailed and technical so there is still quite a lot of work to do but we are on it now and we’ll keep going at it,” he said, calling the talks “slow going”.
“I’m optimistic that we will make further progress this morning but it does mean the Iranians being willing to meet us where there are still issues to deal with,’ he said.
“Fingers crossed and we’ll hope to get there during the course of the day.”
“While each party has its own position, in this final phase, all parties must be prepared to meet each other halfway in order to reach an agreement,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a four-point proposal distributed to journalists.
“It would take a process to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue, which must be advanced step by step and on the basis of reciprocity. All parties must shoulder their responsibilities,” he said. “Last night the talks got stuck on several important issues. Technical experts worked all night. Now a stocktaking is taking place among ministers,” a German diplomat said, adding that progress was “noticeable… Nothing is decided but with good will an agreement (is possible).”
“The concessions offered to Iran in Lausanne would ensure a bad deal that would endanger Israel, the Middle East and the peace of the world,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in Israel in his fourth broadside in as many days.
“Now is the time for the international community to insist on a better deal.”