GENEVA, SWITZERLAND. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry joined fellow big power foreign ministers in Geneva on Friday (November 8) to help clinch an interim nuclear deal with Iran and ease a decade-old standoff, with Israel warning they were making an epic mistake.
Diplomats said a breakthrough at this week’s negotiations remained uncertain and would in any case mark only the first step in a long, complex process towards a permanent resolution of Iran’s dispute with the West over its nuclear ambitions.
But they said the arrival of Kerry, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and French and German foreign ministers Laurent Fabius and Guido Westerwelle was a sign that the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany may be closer to an agreement with Iran than ever before.
Kerry was expected to hold a trilateral meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Speaking in Geneva, Zarif said there would only be a concrete outcome if the meetings involved ministers from the highest levels.
“We have now entered the very difficult and sensitive phase of editing the text that will be published, should the talks reach an agreement soon. It is possible that the negotiations will take more time. However, given the sensitivity of these discussions, we can see that the ministers are eager to participate, and we have to see what the results will bring,” Zarif said.
A senior U.S. State Department official said Kerry was committed to doing “anything he can” to narrow differences with the Islamic Republic.
The powers aim to cap Iran’s nuclear work to prevent any advance towards a nuclear weapons capability.
The top U.S. diplomat arrived from Tel Aviv, where he met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who sees Iran’s atomic aspirations as a menace to the Jewish state.
The official said Kerry had decided to break off a Middle East visit to go to Geneva at the invitation of Ashton, who is coordinating the talks with Iran and the six powers.
Netanyahu warned Kerry and his European counterparts that Iran would be getting “the deal of the century” if they carried out proposals to grant Tehran limited, temporary relief from sanctions in exchange for a partial suspension of, and pledge not to expand, its enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel.
Israel is not the only country in the Middle East worried about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Saudi Arabia, Iran’s chief rival for regional influence, has made clear to Washington that it does not like the signs of a possible U.S.-Iran rapprochement.
Israel has repeatedly suggested that it might strike Iran if it did not shelve its entire nuclear programme and warned against allowing it to maintain what Israel sees as a nascent atomic bomb capability. Iran says its nuclear activities are geared only to civilian needs and has refused to suspend them.