Iran nuclear talks enter ‘decisive phase’: German FM

Iran and major world powers have given themselves until late June to reach a comprehensive agreement that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb, a goal it denies.

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BERLIN // Germany’s foreign minister said no more deadlines must be missed in the Iran nuclear negotiations which had entered “a decisive phase”.

In a brief joint press appearance with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: “We probably share the understanding that this is now the decisive phase of the negotiations.”

Iran and major world powers have given themselves until late June to reach a comprehensive agreement that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb, a goal it denies, in return for an easing of global sanctions.

But Mr Steinmeier said before his meeting with Mr Zarif, “We must now use the newly opened time window, we must leave nothing undone to reach the solution that has eluded us in recent years.”

Sunday will see talks in Geneva between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group – the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany – seeking to break a stalemate that has seen two earlier deadlines pass without an accord.

Mr Steinmeier said that “we have extended this transition agreement twice, but we also agreed at the last meeting that we share the common understanding that one cannot indefinitely continue the extensions”.

“Iran’s path to nuclear weapons must end unambiguously, verifiably and permanently, and in return sanctions must be lifted credibly and step-by-step,” Mr Steinmeier said.

He added that this would restore trust between all sides as they faced a host of crises and conflicts such as the threat posed by the ISIL militant group in Iraq and Syria.

Mr Zarif was visiting Steinmeier in Berlin, a day after holding talks with US secretary of state John Kerry in Geneva on Wednesday. He is set to meet French foreign minister Laurent Fabius in Paris on Friday.

The Iranian minister said, “We have lost 11 years, and the conditions have not become better. And that’s why we need to seize the opportunity to achieve justice, peace and security, and I’m certain that with the participation of Germany ... we can reach this goal.”

Meanwhile, Iranian lawmakers are considering a push toward resuming unlimited uranium enrichment if the US imposes new sanctions on Tehran amid negotiations on the country’s nuclear programme, speaker Ali Larijani said on Thursday.

The new Republican-controlled US congress is considering a fresh sanctions bill to force concessions from Iran at the multilateral talks that resume this week in Geneva.

Mr Larijani warned on Thursday that world powers “cannot haggle with us” .

“Recently some deputies have been considering a bill stipulating that Iran will pursue its activities at whatever level of enrichment... if the West decides to impose new sanctions,” he warned.

On Wednesday, foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said “any new sanction would mean a halt to the [negotiation] process underway” with the world powers.

* Agence France-Presse