VIENNA — Six world powers and Iran began “substantive” talks on Tuesday in pursuit of a final settlement on Tehran’s contested nuclear program in the coming months despite caveats from both sides that a breakthrough deal may prove impossible.
Senior U.S. and Iranian officials met separately for 80 minutes on the sidelines of the negotiations in Vienna.
Details were not given, but such bilateral talks were inconceivable before the 2013 election of Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, as president of Iran. U.S.-Iranian dialogue is seen as crucial to any breakthrough nuclear agreement.
“The conversation was productive and focused mainly on how the comprehensive talks will proceed from here,” a senior U.S. State Department official said on condition of anonymity after Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman’s meeting with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi.
Sherman headed the U.S. delegation, while Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Araqchi led Tehran’s negotiating team at the table with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
After Sherman’s meeting with Araqchi, the Iranians met on Tuesday evening with all six powers to continue talks on how to approach future negotiations, diplomats said. The discussions will resume on Wednesday roughly at 10:30 a.m. and could run into Thursday.
“Much of the first day was focused on discussions about process for how the comprehensive talks will proceed,” a senior U.S. official said. “We made clear that every issue is on the table as part of the comprehensive negotiations, and now it’s time to dig into the details and get to work.”