American officials at the nuclear negotiations with Iran in Lausanne, Switzerland told reporters Tuesday they would extend talks past the midnight deadline.
The previous deadline for a permanent agreement between Iran and a U.S.-led group of six countries, called the P5+1, was midnight Tuesday (6 p.m. EDT). The deadline for negotiation has already been extended twice. In the absence of a permanent deal, Iran and the U.S. are adhering to an interim agreement kept on a separate timeline, set to expire in June. (RELATED: US Tries To Be Iran’s Ally, Enemy and Negotiating Partner)
BuzzFeed News quoted State Department spokesperson Marie Harf, who said the American delegation led by Secretary of State John Kerry, had “made enough progress in the last days to merit staying until Wednesday.” As late as Monday, Harf had stood by the Tuesday deadline.
Earlier Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that the White House and diplomats in Switzerland have kept their messaging consistent, with a member of the American delegation saying the U.S. would “keep working if we are continuing to make progress, including into tomorrow, if it’s useful to do so.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov flew back to Lausanne on Tuesday after leaving on Monday, a sign that the negotiations may be moving forward. He had previously stated that he would not return unless there was a “realistic” chance of an agreement.
According to The Associated Press, officials were set to announce a so-called “framework understanding” in view of the deadline. The plan described to the AP fails to face disagreements on the extent of limitations on Iran’s enrichment of weapons-grade uranium. (RELATED: Leaked Details May Describe A Near-Final Iran Deal)
While Iran continues to insist that its nuclear program is only for civilian energy and scientific purposes, critics point out that it has established secret enrichment facilities and concealed the full extent of its program before. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cautioned for years against any agreement with Iran whatsoever, noting consistently aggressive rhetoric from its leaders against Israel. (RELATED: Just Who Are Those Iranian ‘Hardliners’ We Keep Hearing About?)
The New York Times has pointed out that Iranian politicians continued to insist on nuclear policies in recent days that are unacceptable to the West. Notably, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi has said that Iran would not dispose of its uranium by shipping it out of the country.
The P5+1 comprises the U.S., the U.K., China, France and Russia (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council) alongside Germany (the “+1”). Of the negotiators, France has been the most resistant to grant Iran concessions, while Russia is seen as Iran’s closest ally.
AP diplomatic reporter Matt Lee tweeted around 8:20 p.m. local time that China’s foreign minister had departed for Beijing after five hours of top-level negotiations.