PARIS (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian counterpart Mohammad Jawad Zarif met in Paris on Friday to try to narrow gaps over Iran’s nuclear program, their second session in three days with broader negotiations due to resume soon.
Iran and six world powers - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - have renewed their quest for an elusive nuclear deal after negotiators failed for the second time in November to meet a self-imposed deadline.
Zarif and Kerry met for about an hour to follow up on a lengthy meeting on Wednesday in Geneva in search of an accord seen as crucial to reducing the risk of a wider Middle East war.
“Both Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Zarif were in town for previously scheduled meetings. They agreed to stay in touch and plan to meet again in the coming weeks,” a senior U.S. State Department official said without elaborating.
Kerry was in the French capital to honor the 17 victims killed in last week’s shooting in France. Zarif was in Paris to meet French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, whose government has had a tough stance. Any deal will require consensus.
The major powers hope to persuade Iran to curb its nuclear program, which the West suspects may seek to develop atomic weapons, in exchange for a gradual easing of economic sanctions. Iran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful energy.
Talks are due to resume at political director level in Geneva on Sunday as the two sides look to reach a framework agreement in March and a final long-term deal by June 30.
In a New Year’s address to the foreign and French diplomatic corps on Friday, President Francois Hollande said there were still unanswered questions about Iran’s uranium enrichment and the production of fissile material that could be used to create a nuclear bomb.
“France wants a definitive agreement, but with a clear line: yes for Iran to have civilian nuclear power, but no to military nuclear power. We will be intransigent on this principle.”
France, a U.N. Security Council member with veto power, has long held out for strict terms for a deal, trading a loosening of international sanctions on Iran’s oil-based economy in return for commitments by Tehran to show, verifiably, that its nuclear work is as peaceful as it maintains.
Reporting by John Irish and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Mark Heinrich