Iran Optimistic as Talks Continue

"I think we can make the necessary progress," says Mohammad Javad Zarif after meetings in Switzerland.

Ben Ariel ,

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iran’s Foreign Minister remained cautiously optimistic on Saturday, as world powers appeared to be narrowing in on a nuclear deal with his country.

"We're moving forward," Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted by AFP as having told reporters after meeting separately with his German and French counterparts who flew into Lausanne, Switzerland on Saturday to join the negotiations.

"I think we can in fact make the necessary progress to be able to resolve all the issues and start writing them down in a text that will become the final agreement once it's done," Zarif added.

Iran and six world powers aim by Tuesday to agree the main contours of a deal reducing Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief and ending a more than decade-old standoff. A full agreement is due by June 30.

France's top diplomat Laurent Fabius, the most hawkish in the P5+1 group of countries negotiating with Iran, said he wanted a "robust deal" with close oversight to ensure no violations.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the talks had entered their "endgame" but also warned this would also be the hardest stage.

In a sign that a deal was nearing, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last Thursday spoke with the leaders of Russia, France and Britain, and on Friday, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he was ready to join the talks and fly to Switzerland if there was an immediate prospect of progress.

Russia's chief negotiator, Sergei Ryabkov was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying on Saturday the chances of a deal were "more than 50/50".

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who arrived in a rainy Lausanne late Saturday, said negotiators "have never been so close to a deal" but added there remained "critical points" to resolve.

Officials with knowledge of the contents of the negotiations told The Associated Press on Thursday that the United States is considering letting Iran run hundreds of centrifuges at the fortified underground bunker in Fordow, in exchange for limits on centrifuge work and research and development at other sites.