Technical Experts Meet as Foreign Ministers Take a Break from Negotiations
U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi met today about the technical aspects of a final nuclear deal as foreign ministers took a break from negotiations. The U.S. and Iranian delegations remained in Vienna while foreign ministers from all the other countries left Vienna. French Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier are both expected back for Thursday’s round of negotiations, but foreign ministers from the UK, Russia and China have not announced their return, signaling that a deal may be far away.
But some negotiators remain optimistic a deal can get done by the new July 10 deadline. One anonymous P5+1 diplomat indicated that a deal is “doable by [Thursday] night if talks advance [late Wednesday] evening.” Iran President Hassan Rouhani expressed optimism as well, stating that Iran has already begun “preparing for post-negotiations and post-sanctions.”
A source told Reuters yesterday that the P5+1 will only allow until 4 a.m. GMT (midnight EST) Friday to reach an agreement before cutting off negotiations. However, the U.S. State Department contradicted that report by calling another extension of negotiations “possible.”
P5+1 Unify on Arms Restrictions, Dismiss Iran’s Claims of New Solution
A senior U.S. official claimed that Russia and China have agreed not to break ranks with other P5+1 countries in insisting that the U.N. arms embargo and missile sanctions on Iran must remain in place. The issue of non-nuclear arms restrictions could have driven a wedge between the U.S., which opposes lifting the bans, and Russia, which would benefit from having those restrictions lifted by selling missile defense systems to Iran.
Meanwhile, an Iranian official told local news service ISNA that the country’s negotiators have “presented constructive solutions” to resolve remaining issues in negotiations. But two Western negotiators dismissed the claim as posturing, noting that the P5+1 diplomats “haven’t seen anything new from Iran.”
Obama Puts Odds of Deal at “Less Than 50/50,” Appeals to Senate Democrats
U.S. President Barack Obama privately told Senate Democrats that he believes there is a “less than 50/50” chance at this point that the P5+1 and Iran will reach a final nuclear agreement. Appearing at a cocktail event with Senators from his own party Tuesday night, Obama assured the attendees that the U.S. would walk away from negotiations rather than accept a bad deal. He also told the Senators not to “prejudge” any final agreement before its release.
The U.S. Congress will have 30 to 60 days to reject any agreement reached in Vienna. President Obama is expected to veto any congressional rejection of a final deal, meaning the Senate and House of Representatives will need Democratic opposition to the agreement to override a veto by a 2/3 vote and reject a final deal.