UK foreign secretary says detailed and technical issues still to be resolved but he is optimistic further progress will be made on broad framework agreed.
Britain’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, has said negotiators at the Iran nuclear talks in Switzerland have reached “a broad framework of understanding”, but that details still have to be agreed.
Hammond was speaking after the negotiations missed a midnight deadline to produce a preliminary accord on the main issues in dispute in Iran’s nuclear programme. After breaking off in the early hours of the morning, talks among foreign ministers and senior diplomats resumed on Wednesday.
“I think we have a broad framework of understanding but there are still some key issues that have to be worked through,” the foreign secretary told a group of British broadcasters.
“Some of them are quite detailed and technical so there is still quite a lot of work to do, but we are on it now and we’ll keep going at it.”
He added: “We have made significant progress over the last few days but it has been slow going. We decided to break last night because some of the staff had been working through the previous night. We wanted people to be fresh as we tackle the last few isssues that remain.
“We are now working on them this morning. I’m optimistic that we will make further progress this morning, but it does mean the Iranians being willing to meet us where there are still issues to deal with. Fingers crossed and we’ll hope to get there during the course of the day.”
Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi, predicted there would a joint press statement tonight. But he added: “We are in the overtime but the contents are more important for us than the time. ..We have had good progress, especially on Tuesday, but until we have resolved all issues, we can’t say we have a resolution.”
Over the course of the night, three of the seven foreign ministers at the talks – Wang Yi of China, Sergei Lavrov of Russia, and Laurent Fabius of France left the talks to fly back to their capitals, leaving senior diplomats to lead their delegations. Hammond, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, stayed behind for a seventh day of talks in the Swiss lakeside town.
US diplomats had earlier denied that the agreement had been finalised, saying there were still issues to resolve. In a sign, however, that the talks could be approaching a critical moment, Barack Obama held a video-conference on Tuesday night with his national security team to be briefed on developments by the US negotiators: Kerry and the energy secretary, Ernest Moniz.
The talks went past a midnight deadline but appeared to have gathered momentum as they approached the cutoff point.
Wang, the Chinese foreign minister, said in statement on Wednesday there had been “significant progress in core issues” and the positions of all parties involved in the talks had become closer.
“One can say with relative certainty that we at the minister level have reached an agreement in principle on all key aspects of the final settlement of this issue,” Russian media quoted the Russian foreign minister as saying.
After a marathon 17-hour day of talks, ministers from seven nations adjourned just after the midnight deadline and agreed to reconvene at 9am Lausanne time.
Speaking to reporters after midnight, Iran’s Zarif, said: “It has been a very long day for all delegations. We have accomplished quite a bit but people needed to get some rest and start over early in the morning.
“I hope that we can finalise the work on Wednesday and hopefully start the process of drafting tomorrow.”
Hammond said the negotiators would not be rushed into making a shoddy compromise.
“We have said throughout that we won’t do a bad deal,” he said. “We have to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s, and by working through this in a methodical way we’ll make sure if we get the deal done it is a deal that is good for us, good for Iran, good for the world, and ensures peace in the region in the future.”