Iran nuclear talks: extension 'better than the alternative'

Leaders 'disappointed but optimistic' after nuclear negotiations are extended once again

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton
(Image credit: JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty)

World leaders have extended talks on Iran's nuclear programme after failing to a reach a deal in Vienna, but representatives from the US, EU and Iran remained confident that a political agreement will eventually be achieved.

The year-long negotiations between Iran and six world powers – the US, the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia – had been expected to reach their conclusion yesterday but have instead been extended by seven months.

The talks, aimed at limiting Iran's nuclear capabilities in return for a lifting of sanctions, have already been extended once. Despite the delays, analysts say that an extension is preferable to a complete breakdown in negotiations, which would have global consequences.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The latest deadline for a political agreement has been set for March 1, while the final details will be released by July 1.

A joint statement from EU envoy Catherine Ashton and Iranian foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said that all parties were confident a "comprehensive solution can be reached" by that point.

"We intend to build on the current momentum in order to complete these negotiations within the shortest possible time," they said.

UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond said the failure to reach an agreement by the deadline was "a disappointment", but said leaders needed to "recognise the reality" that a mutually acceptable deal would take longer than previously thought.

Iran's president Hassan Rouhani said that the gap between Iran and the West had "narrowed" over the last year.

US secretary of State John Kerry, however, was more cautious. He said significant progress has been made but warned that "some significant points of disagreement" still remain, the BBC reports.

"These talks are not going to get easier just because we extend them. They are tough. They have been tough and they are going to stay tough," he told journalists in Vienna.

The sticking points that prevented the deal have not been made clear, but the BBC suggests that they may involve the size and scope of uranium enrichment Iran will be allowed to develop and how quickly sanctions are lifted in response.

Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu, who is strongly opposed to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, said he was happy with the extension. "No deal is better than a bad deal," he said.

"It's important that they're continuing negotiations to reach an agreement," Trita Parsi, the president of the Washington-based National Iranian American Council, told Al Jazeera. "But there is big disappointment at missing the deadline, and the environment will be more doubtful [and] unforgiving in both Washington and Tehran," he warned.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.