GENEVA – Iran's foreign minister said Wednesday he hopes a discussion with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will accelerate nuclear talks and allow negotiators to meet a March target for a framework accord.
Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said the meeting was important because he believed it would show the parties' readiness "to move forward and speed up the process." Zarif made the comment to reporters in Geneva before seeing Kerry.
Zarif was coy when asked if he thought the deadline could be met and what particular issues were most vexing.
"We'll see," he said. "All issues are hard until you resolve them and all issues are easy if you resolve them," he said. "I believe all of them are easy anyway."
Kerry and Zarif were meeting in a Geneva hotel a day before negotiators from Iran, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany are to resume talks in Geneva.
The U.S. and its partners are hoping to clinch a deal with Iran that would set long-term limits on Iran's enrichment of uranium and other activity that could produce material for use in nuclear weapons. Iran says its program is solely for energy production and medical research purposes. It has agreed to some restrictions in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from U.S. economic sanctions.
The negotiators are trying to turn an interim accord into a permanent deal that would address international concerns about Iran's nuclear program. In November, after failing to meet an earlier deadline, they set March as the target for a framework agreement and the end of June for a final pact.
Kerry said earlier this week that he's meeting Zarif to take stock of the negotiations.
"We are at a juncture where most of the issues are now getting fleshed out and understood," he told reporters on Monday in India before he flew to Pakistan and then on to Switzerland. He said he hoped to be able to "accelerate the process to make greater progress."
After meeting with Zarif, Kerry will travel to Sofia, Bulgaria for talks with officials and then to Paris, where he will see French officials and pay his respects to the victims of last week's deadly terrorist attacks.