Announcements of a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers were premature, it appears, as the talks were extended yet again on Wednesday night.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his German and French counterparts extended the marathon talks in Switzerland for a second day, even though the original deadline was Tuesday, Reuters reported.
A diplomat close to the talks said late on Wednesday that a deal could be announced within hours but had not yet been reached, and the talks could still collapse.
Kerry and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced they would stay in Lausanne, where the talks are being held, at least until Thursday.
Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius returned for more talks after flying back to Paris the previous day because progress had been too slow, according to Reuters.
The sides were meant to reach a preliminary accord which would provide an outline for a final deal to be reached by June 30. The preliminary deal was meant to be achieved by midnight on March 31, but the sides are under pressure not to go home empty handed and have thus extended the talks twice already.
The first extension came on Tuesday, hours before the deadline, when State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said enough progress had been made to warrant an extension, although there still were "several difficult issues" to bridge.
Washington has threatened to walk away from the talks unless the sides could agree on a preliminary framework.
After missing the self-imposed March 31 deadline, the negotiators ended talks in the early morning hours of Wednesday with an air of chaos, disunity and cacophony as delegations scrambled to get contradictory viewpoints across, noted Reuters.
Both Kerry and Germany's Steinmeier announced their intention to spend another night in Lausanne to build on the progress made.
"We continue to make progress but have not reached a political understanding. Therefore, Secretary Kerry will remain in Lausanne until at least Thursday morning to continue the negotiations," Harf said Wednesday night.
A French official said late on Wednesday that Fabius had decided to return to rejoin the talks, adding that this was not necessarily a sign that a deal was close.
The latest extension comes despite claims Tuesday night by Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, that the sides had reached a preliminary agreement and were drafting the text.
Diplomats close to the negotiations rejected Lavrov’s claims as untrue.
Meanwhile, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) has demanded that the U.S. walk away from the talks in Lausanne.
"The best solution is walk away from the nuclear negotiations now and return to a position of strength," Cotton said in a statement.
The senator called to "reinstate existing sanctions suspended under the Joint Plan of Action, and Congress should act immediately to impose new sanctions. It’s time for the United States to regain the upper hand and quit negotiating out of weakness."