VIENNA — After three days of intensive talks with his Iranian counterpart, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that “tangible progress” had been made in negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, and that he would return to Washington to consult with President Obama over whether to extend a Sunday deadline for a final agreement.
Kerry said “very real gaps” remained, but his tone — and his acknowledgment that Iran had complied with all of its commitments under a temporary agreement that took effect in January — left little doubt he wanted to extend the talks by weeks or months. “That’s where we’re headed, I think,” one of his top advisers said.
When the talks began six months ago, it was generally assumed that if an accord to roll back Iran’s nuclear program was to be reached, the compromises would be negotiated at the eleventh hour.
But as the July 20 deadline approaches, an accord is not yet in hand. The temporary agreement allows for an extension of the talks for up to six months.
It was an indication of the complexity of the talks and Kerry’s negotiating style that immediately after his news conference he launched into a meeting with Catherine Ashton, the foreign policy chief for the European Union, and then yet another meeting with Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, his fourth in three days.
Kerry declined to comment on the proposal that Zarif outlined in an interview with The New York Times for what would amount to an extension of the current short-term agreement for a number of years. Under Zarif’s proposal, Iran would not have to dismantle any of its existing centrifuges, but would use a combination of technologies and inspection to provide assurances they could not produce weapons-grade material.