THE Iranian and US foreign ministers were sitting tight in Vienna yesterday as a nuclear energy deal remained just out of reach.
A second deadline passed on Tuesday night in talks aimed at lifting Western sanctions on Iran over its nuclear energy programme in return for assurances that the Middle Eastern nation is not developing nuclear weapons.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif cancelled his visit to the Brics summit in Ufa, Russia, in order to see through negotiations with the P5+1 group of world powers after the deadline passed.
US Secretary of State John Kerry also opted to stay in Vienna for the talks after his counterparts from Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany left.
Before leaving Vienna for Ufa, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hailed “significant progress” in negotiations, saying that only eight “technical” issues remained.
Mr Lavrov dismissed “artificial deadlines” and stressed that all parties were striving towards a “quality agreement.”
Iran’s deputy chief negotiator Seyed Abbas Araqchi echoed Mr Lavrov, saying only “seven to 10 issues of difference” between Iran and the P5+1 remained, with “only two or three” of them being “fundamental and important.”
“We are now at a highly sensitive stage and we are trying to narrow down the gap and reach an agreement if possible,” Mr Araqchi told Iran’s Fars news agency, adding that the “sanctions annex is 96 per cent complete, with two to three small issues left undecided.”