Kerry, Zarif discuss way forward on Iran nuclear deal

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20131124-060420.jpgUS Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Saturday about how to move forward on implementing the Iran nuclear deal, US and Iranian officials said Monday.

Kerry called Zarif from his flight from Israel to Vietnam Saturday, a senior State Department official said Monday, after the conversation was alluded to by Zarif in an interview with the Washington Post’s David Ignatius and subsequently confirmed by the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

Kerry and Zarif “discussed the importance of moving forward on implementation of the Joint Plan of Action they agreed to in Geneva and of maintaining a constructive atmosphere as the negotiations continue,” the senior State Department official said. “The conversation was focused on the way forward.”

“I’ve been in contact with American officials as well as other 5+1 officials, as well as [European Union chief diplomat] Cathy Ashton,” Zarif told Ignatius. “And everybody is trying to seek possibilities to move forward.”

“What I have heard from Secretary Kerry and Lady Ashton is that they are committed to an early finalization of the Geneva process with a view to reaching a comprehensive agreement,” Zarif said. “I share that objective. I’m sure that we will hit other obstacles on our way.”

Asked by Ignatius if he was alluding to recent conversations, Zarif responded: “Well, we’ve never stopped communicating, and conversations have taken place.”

Separately, European Union foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels Monday, agreed to suspend the EU sanctions on Iran spelled out in the Joint Pian of Action after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has verified Iran’s implementation of certain measures, a statement from the European Council said.

“The Council welcomes the recent success in nuclear talks between the E3+3 and Iran…and endorses the agreement on a Joint Plan of Action reached on 24 November in Geneva,” the Council statement said.

“A swift implementation of the voluntary measures by all sides is now key,” the statement continued. “For its part, the Council is committed to take the necessary steps and to suspend those EU sanctions as set out in the Joint Plan of Action immediately after the IAEA has verified the implementation of the nuclear-related measures by Iran and on the basis of a recommendation by the High Representative.”

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi is due to meet with Ashton in Brussels this week, Iranian and European Union officials said.