U.S. and Iranian officials depart Friday for a final round of nuclear talks in Vienna, even as U.S. officials conceded a deal may not be able to be reached by a June 30 deadline.
A senior U.S. administration official said Thursday negotiators are expected to be “close” to an agreement on the 30th, if they “can get there at all.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif leave Friday for the closed-door talks, being held at a hotel in Vienna, Austria.
Also expected to attend are other high-level officials from countries that make up the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, the so-called P5+1.
The official said negotiators remained “committed” to the Tuesday deadline but may “miss it by a short bit” in order to ensure a proper deal is reached.
“If it takes us a little bit past June 30th to have the right content, as I said a moment ago, what matters here is the substance of the deal and we have to get it right,” the official said.
The official described talks as “extremely tough,” and said some of the most difficult issues were among those being addressed. Those issues include the pace of sanctions relief for Iran and “details about access and transparency,” the official said.
Iran reached a framework nuclear deal with the U.S., Russia China, France, Britain and Germany on April 2. Negotiators are now seeking a final agreement that would restrict Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Iranian officials favor an immediate lifting of sanctions, if an agreement is reached, while P5+1 negotiators favor phased relief.
The two sides have also had disagreements over access to suspected nuclear sites. Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has said Iran will not allow international inspectors to have access to military sites, scientists or documents.
However, in a Wednesday briefing, Secretary of State John Kerry said “what matters to us is what is agreed upon within the four corners of the document.”
“That is what is yet to be determined,” he said.