What happens if Iran's nuclear deadline passes, again?
Nuclear talks, scheduled to end Tuesday, have now been extended to July 10. World powers seem eager to wrap up the talks, but Iran is in no rush.
After missing both June 30 and July 7 deadlines, nuclear negotiators will once again extend the talks in Vienna.
Marie Harf, spokeswoman for the US delegation, announced Tuesday that the talks have been extended to July 10, praising “substantial progress in every area" but noting that "this work is highly technical and high stakes for all of the countries involved.”
"We're frankly more concerned about the quality of the deal than we are about the clock," she said.
"We are interpreting in a flexible way our deadline," said European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini Tuesday, "which means that we are taking the time, the days we still need, to finalize the agreement."
Congress is dangling a carrot of its own to encourage a rapid conclusion. If Iran and P5+1 nations (United States, Britain, France, China, and Russia plus Germany) are able to seal a deal by July 9, the US Congress will review the deal for 30 days, but if the deal is not reached by then, the congressional review period will be doubled to 60 days.
While the world powers are trying not to extend the talks for too long, Iranian negotiators seem unconcerned with the timing. Majid Takht-Ravanchi, a member of Iran’s negotiating team, told the Iranian newspaper Shargh on Sunday that Iran will keep negotiating as long as necessary.
“Due to our previous agreement, there was a deadline which was passed few days ago,” he said, referring to the June 30 deadline. “Since that date was passed we continued to negotiate, and still are following the talks with enthusiasm. And in our opinion there is no concrete deadline. Perhaps some of the countries that we are negotiating with have some official or unofficial deadlines, but we don’t have such deadlines.”
Mr. Takht-Ravanchi added that despite good progress, some issues remain unsolved. He did not explain what those issues are.
Other officials say sticking points include Iranian demands to lift a UN arms embargo and sanctions on ballistic missiles, the timing of US and EU sanctions relief, and the future of Iranian nuclear research and development.
"The Iranians want the ballistic missile sanctions lifted. They say there is no reason to connect it with the nuclear issue, a view that is difficult to accept," a Western official told Reuters on Monday. "There's no appetite for that on our part."
Iranian negotiator Abbas Araghchi also told Iranian state television that the timing of the implementation itself could be tricky.
“What we need to do with regards to our obligations might take two to three months, while the other side can meet its obligations without delay,” he explained. “Synchronizing these two is technically an issue and we are working on it.”