24 November 2014, News Wires – Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme could be extended as parties struggle to meet a deadline of midnight local time in Vienna on Monday to reach a deal.
A day of frantic talks lies ahead, with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud jetting into the Austrian capital on Sunday for impromptu talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Iran is trying to reach a deal with world powers that would see an easing or lifting of sanctions on the Middle Eastern oil giant in return for assurances on its nuclear programme, which it has always contended is for civilian use. A deal will hinge on the level to which Iran is willing to enrich its uranium.
The negotiations are being chaired by former European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and include Kerry, Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Hammond said: “At the moment we’re focused on the last push … to try and get this across the line. Of course if we’re not able to do it, we’ll then look at where we go from there, but at the moment everybody’s talking about how we are going to try and bridge that gap and move things forward with the Iranians.
“I wouldn’t want to give any false hopes here. We’re still quite a long way apart and there are some very tough and complex issues to deal with but we’re all focused right now on trying to get that deal done.”
A senior US state department official told reporters: “It is only natural that just over 24 hours from the deadline we are discussing a range of options… an extension is one of those options.”
If the parties fail to agree a deal by midnight, they could also choose to release a statement of intent to resolve any remaining issues and look to conclude a deal in the future.