GENEVA (AFP) ― Iran and world powers will meet in Geneva from Thursday to iron out remaining obstacles in implementing a historic nuclear deal struck in November, Iranian and EU officials said.
The two-day meeting will bring together deputy negotiators from Iran and the so-called P5+1 group of world powers, European Union foreign policy spokesman Michael Mann said.
It was still not clear when the two sides’ chief negotiators could meet, he added.
Iranian officials had also announced the meeting earlier Tuesday, with Tehran’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham telling reporters that the talks would focus on “one or two remaining issues pending a political decision” before the deal can be implemented.
Technical experts from Iran and the EU-chaired P5+1 ― comprising the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany ― held two sessions in Geneva in mid- and late December as they seek to fine-tune a deal reached on Nov. 24 after their foreign ministers rushed to the Swiss city for marathon talks.
Under the deal, Iran is to curb parts of its nuclear drive for six months in exchange for modest relief from international sanctions and a promise by Western powers not to impose new measures against the Iranian economy, which has been battered by the embargo.
In early December, experts also held four days of talks in Vienna ― home of the International Atomic Energy Agency ― but the Iranians walked out after Washington expanded its sanctions blacklist against Tehran.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi is Iran’s nuclear point man, and is scheduled to meet in Geneva with his EU counterpart Helga Schmid, the official IRNA news agency reported.
World powers have spent a decade holding on-off talks with the Islamic republic over its controversial nuclear ambitions.
The talks, which hit a wall amid tensions between the West and hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, gathered pace after the election of relative moderate Hassan Rouhani, who succeeded him in August.
Amid signs of a thaw with the international community, Rouhani pledged transparency on the nuclear program and engagement with major powers to try to remove the sanctions and thereby improve life for Iranians.
The sides are considering Jan. 20 to begin implementing the deal, which is meant to buy time for diplomacy to clinch a lasting agreement that would allay suspicions that Iran is covertly pursing a nuclear weapons capability.
Iran denies wanting nuclear weapons but many in the international community suspect otherwise, and neither Israel -- widely considered to be the Middle East’s sole, if undeclared, nuclear-armed state -- nor Washington have ruled out military action.