DEBKAfile: Nuclear talks collapse as Iranian delegation ordered to quit and return home
debkafile’s exclusive Iranian sources report that the delegation to the nuclear talks taking place in Lausanne received orders from Tehran Friday, March 20, to break off negotiations and return home for consultations. Foreign Minister Mohammed Jawad Zarif and Iran’s national security chief Ali Akhbar Salehi used the funeral of President Hassan Rouhani's 90-year-old mother as a pretext for packing their bags and leaving the deadlocked talks behind them in Lausanne. This followed the sixth round of talks in the Swiss city with US Secretary of State John Kerry that failed to break the impasse on a nuclear accord.
The Iranians said they would return to resume the talks next week but set no date, although other sources mentioned Wednesday, March 25. Another sign of a crisis was the cancellation of briefing Friday in Brussels of British, German, French and European Union leaders on progress in the negotiations that was supposed to reflect progress toward a deal by the March 31 deadline.
An hour before France, Britain and Germany were to join the talks in Lausanne, the Iranians announced they were about to leave.
It was announced subsequently that Kerry would hold the cancelled Brussels briefing in France Saturday for officials rather than top leaders.
Speaking to Western news agencies Friday, Western and Iranian officials admitted that all the sides were very far apart. “We are not close to anything resembling a draft agreement,” said a European negotiator. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the length of an agreement, the pace of sanctions relief and international monitoring remain points of contention. No draft would be circulated until closer to the June 30 deadline for technical annexes, said the Russian official.
In other words, the March 31 deadline for a framework accord appeared to have gone by the board.