Wednesday, March 11, 2015

EU to host Iran nuclear talks in Brussels on Monday

Nuclear Talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif (C) gesture as they arrive to resume nuclear negotiations in Montreux, in this March 2, 2015

The European Union will host talks in Brussels Monday with the British, French, German and Iranian foreign ministers on Tehran's contested nuclear programme as a deadline at the end of March nears.

EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini will lead the talks, a statement said, one day after US Secretary of State John Kerry meets his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in Switzerland as part of continued Western efforts to ensure Tehran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.

"It is the first time talks at this level are being held in Brussels," a Commission spokeswoman said.

"They are part of the effort (with) the deadline approaching; we are doing everything we can," the spokeswoman said.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and his French and German counterparts Laurent Fabius and Frank-Walter Steinmeier are also due to attend an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels Monday.

The EU has helped mediate talks between the five UN permanent Security Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany and Iran.

They began in late 2013 after Iran agreed to initial limits on its nuclear programme in return for an easing of some of the damaging economic sanctions imposed by the West.

The negotiations have been extended twice but all sides say this will be the last round, having set a March 31 deadline for a political deal.

A final accord has to follow by the end of June.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful civilian use only.