WASHINGTON – Iranian and European officials said Tuesday that technical talks required to implement a preliminary nuclear deal have made progress, and they suggested that an agreement may be close.
Hamid Baidinejad, leader of an Iranian delegation to the technical talks, said the representatives had “achieved mutual understanding on implementation [of] the nuclear deal,” according to the government-controlled Iranian Students News Agency.
Michael Mann, a spokesman for Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said the two sides’ technical advisors are reporting to their capitals after several days of talks in Geneva.
“Contacts will be continued in order to finalize a common understanding of implementation,” he said in a statement.
Iranian officials said they expected implementation of the deal to begin in the last 10 days of January, or about two months after Iran and representatives of six world powers signed the preliminary deal in Geneva on Nov. 24.
Under the accord, Iran will freeze most of its enrichment operations in exchange for easing of some Western sanctions. The six-month interim deal is supposed to provide time for negotiators to reach a more comprehensive agreement to ensure that Iran cannot build a nuclear weapon.
Technical experts have been meeting intermittently since Dec. 9, not without friction. But both sides have strong reason to want a deal: Iran needs relief from crushing economic sanctions, and the West wants to curb Iran’s nuclear program without starting another Mideast war.