French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (3rd L), EU envoy Catherine Ashton (6th L), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (3rd R) and Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond (front L) sit a a table during talks in Vienna November 21, 2014. (Reuters/Heinz-Peter Bader)
Iran’s nuclear talks with the six world powers will carry on till the end of June, according to British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, confirming earlier reports that negotiations would not reach a conclusion by the deadline of November 24.
An Iranian official confirmed Hammond's comments shortly afterwards.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that “considerable progress” had been made but there was no final agreement. Meanwhile, the Geneva agreement remains in place, he added, and he expressed expectations that the "basic principles" of a final agreement would be made within three or four months.
Hammond also commented that “significant progress” was achieved.
As of yet, the site of next month’s round of talks remains unknown. Meanwhile, Tehran will still have access to $700 million per month by way of sanctions relief.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is expected to make an address later Monday, according to state news agency IRNA.
The announcements were made after the six world powers’ foreign ministers arrived in Vienna on Monday for what was previously claimed to be the final round of negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear program. However, as the deadline approached, it started to become apparent that reaching a final settlement and breaking the deadlock before the end of the day would be unlikely, and from Sunday, various sources started claiming that an extension would indeed take place.
The talks, which have so far lasted for more than a year, focus on Iran’s nuclear ambitions - the country’s uranium enrichment capacity and the lifting of sanctions slapped on Tehran in 2012 over its nuclear program.
Lavrov: Today's #Iran nuclear talks not in vain http://t.co/cNcFFhbKkLpic.twitter.com/OPuUgc9fMc
— RT (@RT_com) November 24, 2014
On Monday, prior to official announcements, a source told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Iran and the world powers would be postponing talks and would continue them in mid-December, possibly in Oman.
"Some progress has been made," said a diplomat involved in the negotiations. "But we need to discuss some issues with our capitals. We will meet again before the New Year. This is an ongoing process."
Further negotiations underway with #Iran's Foreign Minister@JZarif#IranTalkspic.twitter.com/4BLSp0laPD
— Philip Hammond (@PHammondMP) November 24, 2014
An anonymous Western diplomat had also told AFP prior to the official announcements that the negotiations could be extended to July 1, 2015. He added that the world powers expect to reach a special arrangement on the “political pieces” of the deal by March.
We're continuing to chip away in Vienna. P5+1 united. #IranTalksVienna
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) November 23, 2014
On Sunday, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif discussed the possibility of extending negotiations, according to a US official,
"Our focus remains on taking steps forward toward an agreement, but it is only natural that just over 24 hours from the deadline, we are discussing a range of options both internally and with our P5+1 partners," a senior US State Department official said on condition of anonymity.
The source added that “an extension [of the negotiations] is one of those options."
Spoke with many counterparts today incl @HonJohnBaird, @MFATurkey #FMCavusoglu &@netanyahu abt #IranTalksViennapic.twitter.com/H1GcmXGqz2
— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) November 22, 2014
On Sunday the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) cited an unnamed member of Iran's negotiating team in Vienna that the deal on Tehran’s nuclear program with six world powers “will be impossible” to reach.
"The issue of extension of the talks is an option on the table and we will start discussing it if no deal is reached by Sunday night," the source added.
In the meantime, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the powers will try one more attempt to reach the agreement.
"At the moment we're focused on the last push, a big push [on Monday] morning to try and get this across the line," said. "Of course if we’re not able to do it, we'll then look at where we go from there."
En route to #Irantalks for further mtgs with partners & #Iran. Negotiations tough. All efforts focused on trying to reach successful outcome
— Philip Hammond (@PHammondMP) November 23, 2014
Germany’s Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that Iran and the six world powers were “still far apart on many issues” concerning negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear program.
"We are negotiating here with the ambition to reach an agreement," he said. "If this task should not be completed, one definitely would need to look at opportunities so that the road does not end here, but that the negotiating process can be continued."
His thoughts were echoed by his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius.
"We have a final deadline of tomorrow night to find an agreement, but it has to be positive and enables us to work for peace. There are still differences to resolve."
The nuclear reactor in Arak and underground enrichment facility at Fordo, currently under construction, are focal points of discussions between Iran and the six world powers.
There is still significant distance between the two sides regarding the number of centrifuges Iran should be allowed to keep functioning. There is also argument about the amount of leeway international inspectors would have, and how quickly sanctions against Iran would be rescinded.
Iran says it wants enrichment capabilities to develop reactor fuel, and for other peaceful purposes. But the West believes it has been using its civilian atomic energy program as a cover for the developing a nuclear weapons program.