Six world powers and Iran appeared to make some progress at a second day of talks in Vienna on Wednesday to hammer out an agenda for reaching an ambitious final settlement to the decade-old standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany want a long-term agreement on the permissible scope of Iran’s nuclear activities to lay to rest concerns that they could be put to developing atomic bombs. Tehran’s priority is a complete removal of damaging economic sanctions against it.
The negotiations will probably extend at least over several months, and could help defuse many years of hostility between energy-exporting Iran and the West, ease the danger of a new war in the Middle East, transform the regional power balance and open up major business opportunities for Western firms.
Both sides were relatively upbeat about the first meeting.
“The talks are going surprisingly well. There haven’t been any real problems so far,” a senior Western diplomat said.
A European diplomat said Iran and the world powers were “committed to negotiating in good faith” and that they had discussed the schedule for future meetings and other issues.
“Experts had detailed discussions on some of the key issues which would have to be part of a comprehensive settlement,” the diplomat added.
A senior Iranian official, Hamid Baidinejad, told Reuters: “Talks were positive and generally (were about) the framework for the agenda for further talks.”
The talks had originally been expected to run for as long as three full days but might be adjourned early due to the crisis in Ukraine, according to Western diplomats.
The powers have yet to spell out their precise demands of Iran. But Western officials have signaled they want Tehran to cap enrichment of uranium at a low fissile concentration, limit research and development of new nuclear equipment, decommission a substantial portion of its centrifuges used to refine uranium, and allow more intrusive U.N. nuclear inspections.
Highlighting wide differences over expectations in the talks, Araqchi was cited by Iran’s English-language Press media outlet on Tuesday as saying that any dismantling of Iranian nuclear installations would not be up for negotiation.
The talks could also stumble over the future of Iran’s facilities in Arak, an unfinished heavy-water reactor that Western states worry could yield plutonium for bombs, and the Fordow uranium enrichment plant, which was built deep underground to ward off any threat of air strikes.
“Iran’s nuclear sites will continue their activities like before,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Iranian Atomic Energy Organization spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi as saying.