Kerry Joins Iran Nuclear Talks, 'Significant Gaps' Remain

Top diplomats from around the world are in Vienna to discuss a deal on Iran's nuclear program, with a deadline a week away.
Posted at 9:16 PM, Jul 13, 2014

It's been a busy weekend for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. One day after brokering a deal to keep the peace between Afghanistan's rival presidential candidates, Kerry arrived in Vienna to help breathe new life into stalled negotiations on Iran's nuclear program. (Via U.S. Department of State)

The talks are a continuation of a landmark deal reached back in Nov. 2013 when Iran agreed to scale back its nuclear enrichment in exchange for some relaxing of economic sanctions. That agreement was meant to act as a foundation for a later, more comprehensive deal. (Via Al Jazeera, Euronews)

But with the July 20 deadline for a deal just one week away, and neither side looking very close to a compromise, it seems more likely that Kerry and other foreign ministers will push for more time to negotiate.

"All of the ministers here today, including the Iranians, have spoken of the significant gaps that remain. ... They do have the possibility to agree to an extension of these talks after the twentieth of July." (Via BBC)

The U.S., along with other Western nations, has long been concerned about the possibility of Iran developing nuclear weapons, and has used economic sanctions to try and hinder the country's uranium enrichment program. (Via ITN)

Iran, which is hugely proud of its nuclear development, maintains that the program is for peaceful energy purposes only. Iran's foreign minister told NBC Sunday the country sees "no benefit in developing nuclear weapons."

Last year's agreement was a promising breakthrough on the issue, but the talks have been progressing slowly since then. The New York Times says diplomats on both sides are under a lot of pressure from their governments.

An unnamed American official told The Times, "Everyone is using the constraints they face back home as a reason to avoid compromise. And the fact of the matter is that there are many generals in Iran and many members of Congress in Washington who would like to see this whole effort collapse."

The current instability in the Middle East is complicating matters even further. The Gaza conflict, the rise of ISIS in Iraq, and the ongoing Syrian civil war are all standing in the way of a nuclear deal. (Via Israel Defense Forces, Voice of America)

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been a staunch critic of attempting to deal with Iran, was quick to remind Fox News Sunday that Iran has been linked to financing militants in all three of these conflicts.

"This is the same Iran that is arming, financing, training Hamas and Islamic Jihad. ... You don't want this Iran to have, neither nuclear weapons, nor the capability to make nuclear weapons."

The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict was a major point of discussion on the sidelines of Sunday's negotiations, with several top diplomats pushing for a cease-fire between the two sides.