Iran nuclear talks to resume Sept. 18

Article Summary
Iran and the six world powers will resume nuclear negotiations on Sept. 18 in New York, as the parties seek to reach a comprehensive nuclear accord by Nov. 24.

Iran and the six world powers (UN Security Council plus Germany, or P5+1) will resume nuclear negotiations on Sept. 18 in New York, on the sidelines of the opening session of the UN General Assembly, a western official said Sept. 3.

Plans to resume talks come as the parties seek to reach a comprehensive Iran nuclear accord by the extended deadline of Nov. 24, after failure to reach a deal in July.

While the talks in New York are expected to convene at the political director level, foreign ministers from the P5+1 and Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are also expected to meet together in New York during the UNGA events, officials said. 

Though it has not been decided yet if Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will come to New York, he told an Iran press conference Aug. 30, the expectation in Iran is that he will likely attend.

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Iranian diplomats, on a diplomatic blitz through Europe this week, have offered vaguely upbeat pronouncements about prospects for reaching an accord by the extended deadline if the western powers demands are not unreasonable. But they have not indicated if they are willing to compromise on the key issue of the size of Iran’s enrichment capacity, which was a central obstacle to reaching a final deal at talks in Vienna by July 20.

“I am quite optimistic after discussions with Lady Ashton that we can in fact resolve this issue in time," Zarif said in Brussels Sept. 1, after meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Reuters reported.

"I hope with the readiness and political will that I see in all parties to this discussion to have a resolution within the next three months," he said.

Ahead of the resumed negotiations, an Israeli delegation will travel to Washington to hold bilateral discussions with US counterparts on Sept. 10-11, as part of the semi-annual US-Israel strategic dialogue.

The US-Israel discussions are largely to be focused on the negotiations with Iran.

“What Rouhani has done is concede on all kinds of secondary issues, partial concessions, but protected the project's core, which is what threatens us and the whole world," Israel’s strategic affairs minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Army Radio Sept. 3, Reuters reported.

"This means that in substance Iran's positions have remained as tough as before, and if there is no dramatic development in the coming month then either there will be no deal — or there will be a bad deal leaving Iran a nuclear threshold state, and this is of course something we are not willing to accept,” Steinitz said.

Iranian observers said they believed that a deal was still possible, but said the issues of sanctions relief and the time duration for a deal would be important to enable Iran to compromise on enrichment capacity.

“I am 60% optimistic that there will be a deal,” an Iranian scholar, speaking not for attribution, told Al-Monitor Sept. 3.

“As it stands right now, if there is enough commitment to sanctions relief, and an eight-to-10-year time frame [for the deal], my sense is … that would be acceptable [to Iran], that they still want to do it,” the Iranian scholar said. Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "has still not backed off on a deal, [though] he is under pressure himself to back off and change because of the new sanctions.”

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Found in: us-israel relations, p5+1, nuclear talks, khamenei, iran nuclear talks, hassan rouhani

Laura Rozen is Al-Monitor's diplomatic correspondent based in Washington, DC. She has written for Yahoo! News, Politico and Foreign Policy. On Twitter: @LRozen

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