Iran and the US are in a race against time to bridge differences standing in the way of an agreement over Tehran’s nuclear energy program before a March 31 deadline.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his US counterpart John Kerry met in closed session on Sunday for two hours ahead of Monday’s talks involving technical experts.
Although the bilateral talks did not reach any agreement, Zarif told media that he and Kerry had “good discussions”.
The P5+1 group, including the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, met with Iran on Sunday night to reach a deal that would see Tehran curb its nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions.
The talks appeared to have ended with no agreement reached. In previous talks with the P5+1, the most contentious issues appear to be about Iran’s uranium enrichment process and how quickly sanctions could be lifted.
After Sunday’s talks, both Kerry and Zarif admitted that differences remain.
“It is imperative to be able to come to a fundamental political outline and agreement within the time space that we have left,” Kerry told the media.
The P5+1 and Iran have already missed a November 2014 deadline to reach an agreement. During their meetings in Vienna, Austria last November, the delegations agreed to extend the deadline to March 31.
Zarif says he is concerned that Western powers may be overreaching with excessive demands, which are impeding the chance of reaching a compromise.
Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted Wang Qun, Director-General of the Department of Arms Control of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who attended the talks on Sunday that all negotiating teams had substantial issues to discuss.
He said that the P5+1 and Iran had agreed to more talks at the end of February, but did not specify an exact date.