After a week of intensive discussions, the world’s six major powers and Iran agreed to extend talks for seven months. The new goal is to reach a political agreement within four months and a final deal by June 30 that would curb Tehran's controversial nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Top officials from the seven countries — (from left to right) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walkter Steinmeier, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi — posed for a group photo before heading into their last meeting on November 24.
Negotiators met for bilateral, trilateral and group talks in Vienna from November 18 to November 24. As the ministers and deputies proposed new ideas, their staff worked late to see if the proposals would be technically feasible.
The parties were so focused that Foreign Minister Zarif did not even leave the negotiation room to pray in one instance, captured in the following picture.
Two days before the deadline, Kerry updated some U.S. allies on the status of talks. He spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu and Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird.
Back in Iran, pictures of Foreign Minister Zarif conferring with Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi made the front pages.
Kerry tweeted a picture of the last meeting of foreign ministers before the extension was announced.
A few hours later, Kerry addressed the press. “We would be fools to walk away [from negotiations],” he warned. “In these last days in Vienna, we have made real and substantial progress, and we have seen new ideas surface.” Kerry said the new goal is to finish a political agreement within four months.
Ashton and Zarif later read a joint statement saying the extension to June 30 will allow negotiators to “build on the current momentum" and reach an agreement in the "shortest possible time.”
Iran’s negotiating team (below) includes Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi (left), Foreign Minister Zarif (center) and Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht-Ravanchi (right). All three speak English fluently. Ravanchi and Zarif both studied in the United States. They face the daunting challenge of convincing hardliners back home that the extension will benefit Iran in the end.
Amidst the talks, Deputy Spokesperson for the U.S. State Department Marie Harf took a moment to tweet a picture of a treat delivered by the hotel hosting the talks.