Iran and West Start Drafting Permanent Agreement

Iran's Foreign Minister says work has begun on a comprehensive nuclear agreement but many differences remain.

Elad Benari,

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iran and world powers have started drafting a comprehensive nuclear agreement but still face many sticking points, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday, according to the AFP news agency.

"Today we have slowly begun to draft the final agreement... but there are still many differences" over the text, the ISNA news agency quoted Zarif as saying from Vienna.

"This does not mean we have reached an agreement," he stressed, adding that “fundamental disagreements" continue to divide Iran and the P5+1 powers - Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany.

A new round of negotiations between Iranian diplomats and those of the six powers that opened Monday in Vienna had been "very difficult" so far.

The talks, which run through Friday, are aimed at clinching a comprehensive nuclear deal by a July 20 deadline set up by an interim agreement.

Iran's top negotiator Abbas Araqchi earlier told the IRNA news agency that Iran hoped to settle all differences with the six powers by the target date.

The main sticking points are the timetable for a full lifting of crippling U.S. and EU sanctions, and the scale to which Iran would be allowed to continue uranium enrichment, he said.

The ongoing talks seek to turn an interim deal reached in November into a permanent agreement. Under the interim deal, Iran committed to limit its uranium enrichment to five percent and is gradually winning access to $4.2 billion of its oil revenues frozen abroad and some other sanctions relief.

The P5+1 want Iran to drastically reduce its uranium production capacity, and keep only a few hundred centrifuges active.

They want to ensure that Iran's nuclear activities are purely peaceful. In return, Iran wants the removal of international sanctions that have choked its economy.

In the remarks to IRNA, Araqchi said "it won't be a catastrophe" if the July 20 target date is not met.

"We hope to start work on Wednesday on drafting the text of a final agreement, not the big issues but the general framework and the introduction," Araqchi said, according to AFP.

"There is a still a long way to go before we reach an agreement acceptable to all sides."

Throughout the talks, Iran has declared that it will never give up on what it sees as its right to enrichment.