Kerry to Travel to Vienna for Nuclear Talks

Secretary of State will travel to Vienna this weekend to join ongoing nuclear talks with Iran. Other foreign ministers will join as well.

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FMs discuss Iran in Geneva (file)
FMs discuss Iran in Geneva (file)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Vienna this weekend to join ongoing world power nuclear talks with Iran, the State Department said Thursday, according to AFP.

Kerry “will see if progress can be made on the issues where significant gaps remain and assess Iran’s willingness to make a set of critical choices at the negotiating table,” spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will also travel to Vienna on Sunday to assess the state of talks between world powers and Iran over curbs on the Islamic republic’s nuclear program, a diplomatic source in Paris told AFP.

Fabius and officials in the P5+1 group comprising the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and China will “evaluate the situation” in the talks, which aim to reach a definitive accord with Iran by July 20, according to the source.

The source did not say which other foreign ministers would attend.

Iran and the West have been holding talks in an attempt to turn an interim nuclear agreement reached into November into a permanent deal.

Western diplomats said last week that Iran has reduced demands for the size of its future nuclear enrichment program, even as they added it would not be easy to clinch a deal by the July 20 deadline.

In the meantime, Iran seems to have toughened its position. On Tuesday, Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Iran "needs" 19 times more nuclear centrifuges than the amount being offered by world powers.

Iranian nuclear agency head Ali Akbar Salehi echoed Khamenei’s remarks a day later, saying Iran wants to greatly expand its uranium enrichment program despite Western fears that it could be used to make atomic arms.

The diplomatic talks can continue until the July 20 deadline, but if no agreement is reached, the temporary deal could be extended for six months.

A spokesman for lead negotiator Catherine Ashton said Thursday that foreign ministers from world powers have been invited to Vienna on Sunday.

EU foreign policy chief Ashton “has invited ... foreign ministers who are available to come to Vienna on Sunday to take stock of where we are” in the talks, spokesman Michael Mann tweeted, according to AFP.

Shedding further doubt on the nuclear talks, a United Nations report in May revealed Iran is bypassing the sanctions which were meant as an economic incentive to force the Islamic regime to abandon its nuclear program. Indeed, Khamenei in January revealed that the negotiations were merely a stalling tactic.