Iranian Government Spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht stressed that the change of the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, won’t leave any impact on the trend of the nuclear negotiations between Tehran and the six world powers (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany).
“Mrs. Ashton’s remarks are an expression of the six countries’ will and these changes don’t affect the negotiations,” Nobakht told reporters after a cabinet meeting here in Tehran on Wednesday.
Catherine Ashton, the British baroness who has held the EU’s top foreign policy post for the past five years, may not be the critical decision-maker in the talks, but she has been the prime coordinator of the negotiations since 2010.
The role requires her to work with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany to present a clear and united position, while trying to build trust with the Iranians to keep the sensitive talks trundling along.
By continued talks all sides still hope that a deal can be finalized by July 20, potentially making history. If that’s the case, Ashton would be able to see the diplomacy through – her mandate does not finish until the end of October.
Tehran and the world powers are now in talks to compile a final comprehensive deal which has a deadline of July 20 and can be extended for another 6 months after coordination and talks between the two sides.
Representatives of Iran and the G5+1 wrapped up their fourth round of talks in Vienna on Friday. The seven nations have been discussing ways to iron out differences and start drafting a final deal that would end the West’s dispute with Iran over the country’s nuclear energy program.
Iran says there has been no tangible progress in writing the draft text of the agreement and it blamed the US for the failure, saying Washington has made excessive demands beyond the agreements made in the previous rounds of talks.
On Friday, an official close to the Iranian nuclear negotiating team criticized the West for pursuing unreasonable and “excessive demands” during the talks.
A few hours later and after three days of talks, Iran’s deputy chief negotiator Seyed Abbas Araqchi said on Friday evening that the Vienna nuclear talks with the world powers would continue until achievement of results, but meantime reiterated that Iran would not accept a discussion of its defense program and will only agree to a deal which respects its rights.
Speaking to reporters after three days of intensive negotiations with the delegations of the six world powers in Vienna on Friday night, Araqchi, also a deputy foreign minister, said Iran will not retreat. “We stand firm on our rights. We will have 6 more months if we fail to work out a deal by July 20.”
He said Iran will not allow a discussion of its missile or defense program in the nuclear talks. “Our defense equipment can no way go under discussion in the negotiations.”
Araqchi stressed that Iran is not in a rush to push the talks into a final phase of concluding an agreement at any price. “There is no push to obtain an agreement by July 20 at any price.”
“We (only) concede to an agreement which will be in line with our interests, meet our demands and establish the Iranian nation’s rights,” he continued.
“We hope that the talks continue in a logical, rational and realistic manner and yield result within the deadline,” he said.
Two days after the end of the talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who leads the country’s team in the nuclear talks with the world powers, said in his twitter account that wrong illusions should be removed and the present opportunity shouldn’t be lost as in 2005.
Given the sensitivity of the talks and the excessive demands raised by Washington from Iran, experts see the possibility of a delay in striking a final deal between the two sides. A delay would mean a new EU foreign policy chief taking over, someone with less familiarity with the issues or rapport with the Iranians.