Watch closely, the U.S. and Iran may soon make history

Just one week is left until the key deadline to reach a political framework agreement

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

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Round after round, meeting after meeting, finally the major nuclear negotiators from Iran and the U.S. are in a crucial and the most sensitive time of the talks and are again having an intense meeting in the city of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Just one week is left until the key deadline, set for March 24 by the U.S. Congress, to reach a political framework agreement, otherwise more punishments and sanctions could be expected. Interestingly now the negotiators are working hard to defeat their opponents who are considered the hardliners in both Iran and the U.S.

While the Iranian officials do not recognize the March 24 deadline - the official one was supposed to be on March 31 as agreed in Vienna when the interim agreement extended last November - Iran has agreed to meet the U.S. deadline. In a very unique form of cooperation, for the first time both countries find a common goal to work on as a mutual interest of the administrations.

Any agreement, small or big, gives the negotiators an opportunity to continue the talks

Lots of preparation work has been done for some kind of ceremonial meeting in Lausanne, but still nothing can be predicated as the talks reached this critical stage. It’s up to the other negotiators at P5+1 (Five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) to accept the Iranian and U.S. framework agreement.

Verbal agreement

According to a source close to the negotiators, Iran and America have reached a verbal agreement on what they intend to announce and to approve which talks have been positive and progressive.

Any agreement, small or big, gives the negotiators an opportunity to continue the talks in the coming months before the deadline of July 1.

It means all of them are willing to leave Lausanne in the knowledge that they are close to reaching a major deal, no matter what the opponents suggest.

The trilateral talks between Zarif and Kerry resumed on Monday, March 16, with a day’s delay due to Kerry’s late night arrival on Sunday. According to a source close to the negotiations just a few issues remain unsolved that need to be taken care of.

The source said the matter of Arak heavy water reactor and the number of the centrifuges in Natanz nuclear facility are still under discussion, and there is hope the issues will be sorted by Thursday or Friday.

Zarif’s day trip to Brussels to meet with three EU counterparts of Germany, France and the UK in the presence of Federica Mogherini - who serves as High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs - raised expectations that the chances of agreeing a framework agreement is possible within couple of days.

Remaining issues ‘mainly political’

The meetings between the U.S. Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, and the head of Iran Atomic Energy Association, Ali-Akbar Salahei, starts Sunday, March 15. According to their aids both parties have described the meetings as positive and progressive.

The technical aspects of the negotiations were the major issue and it seems as though they have passed, as Secretary of State John Kerry told MBC on Saturday the remaining issues of the nuclear talks were mainly ‘political.’

The negotiators are preparing the ground for another three months’ work on the details of the framework agreement in order to prepare the ground for breaking the main deal before July 1.

All Iranians are keeping their eyes on Switzerland to see if the negotiators finally have anything to help the nation welcome the New Year with more hope and happiness, all evidence shows that Zarif won’t disappoint them.

Late in the evening of Saturday, March 15, Iranian and American officials were all separately walking around the hotel they are staying at. And all looked occupied and thoughtful.

Whether they reach a deal or not remains a heavy burden on the shoulders of the negotiators.

But this potential historical nuclear deal is not just about this one particular issue - it is seen as the opening of a new chapter in the relations between the two countries, and further cooperation and acceptance of each other as who they are.


Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

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