Deadline, Differences & Cautious Optimism

September 29, 2014 | Blog,Featured

Iran and the P5+1 wrapped up 9 days of intensive nuclear talks in New York on the sidelines of the 69th session of the United Nation’s General Assembly.

“The remaining time for reaching an agreement is extremely short” -Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Press Conference, Sept. 2014. 

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany are in ongoing talks with Iran to reach a final agreement that would end the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear energy program. The two sides signed an interim deal ( the JPOA) in Geneva, last November. The agreement took effect on January 20 and expired six months later. In July, they agreed to extend the negotiations until November 24 amid differences over key issues. A deal would assure the west that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and would grant Tehran relief from crippling western sanctions. Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, leading Iran’s negotiating team arrived in New York almost a week before the President. His first meeting was with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who chairs the six-power group that negotiates with Iran. Bilateral meetings between Zarif-EU & Arab counterparts followed.

Zarif-Ashton“There are a lot of difficulties, this has been an issue that has been built up for the past 8 years, there has been little actual negotiations- so from enrichment to our heavy water reactor program to the illegal sanctions that have been imposed on Iran both bilaterally as well as multilaterally as well as the sanctions that have been imposed by the Security Council and also other elements that have been included in the Joint Plan of Action, which we adopted in Geneva including technical cooperation-because Iran has been denied access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and one of the commitments of 5+1 is to provide access to Iran so all of these issues need to be ironed out, on some of these issues we are closer to an agreement and on some its more difficult to reach an agreement”. -Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, upon arriving in NY.

 ”I believe we are making progress….that said, there are still some very crucial decisions that need to be made…this is a very, very complicated negotiation, very technically detailed…I think we have made progress while we’ve been here during the U.N. General Assembly and many leaders and virtually every foreign minister of the P5+1 has had a bilateral with Iran, and it has helped to improve our understanding.” -Chief US Negotiator, Wendy Sherman, in VOA interview .

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov echoed the sentiments seemingly shared by all the parties involved when talking to reporters; he expressed “cautious optimism” that a landmark deal can be reached before Nov.24, 2014.

“We still have time….we will do our utmost to make sure that remaining small, but extremely important, issues be resolved in a way that is acceptable to all”. -Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov to reporters at UN.

“At no time as in the last few days have I heard a serious tone about the level of engagement and will to progress, I’ve been involved in negotiations during the last dozen years on and off whether European countries, bilateral or 5+1, today there is a serious intent which is evident to perceive  even through the words, and these words cant be privy of serious will, so we believe the serious will still exists.”- Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani at a Press Conference.

However speaking at a gala dinner for Iranian-Americans the night before,  Rouhani hinted that an extension to the Nov. 24th deadline may be needed, when he said “I assure you, we will close the nuclear file if not sooner then later”.

rouhani galaUS Secretary of State John Kerry joined Zarif and Ashton for trilateral meetings on two consecutive days. While, these high level meetings seem to have become a norm, many on twitter and other social media sites see it as a breakthrough in Iran US relations. Last year was the first time Iran and the US held such high level meetings in over three decades.


 photo (5)“It is not written in stone that this relationship between Iran and America must always be conflict-ridden and conflict driven, one day this will change but we must find the right time for this and the two governments are obliged to step by step lay the solid foundation to build a better future than the one we had in the past.” -Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Press Conference, Sept. 2014

Next round of talks are scheduled to be held in 2 weeks, somewhere in Europe.

Related links: 

1. Video: Council on Foreign Relations

2. Video: New America 

3. Transcript: Iran Speech UNGA 2014


Susan Modaress covered the 69th session of the UN General Assembly and its sidelines in New York from Sept. 16-27. Her reporting focused on Iran and the P5+1 nuclear talks. 


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