Iran President Hassan Rouhani Says There Is A 'Major' Agreement in Nuclear Talks

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said there was a "major" agreement in weeks of ongoing talks in Vienna with diplomats about Iran's nuclear deal with world powers on Thursday.

Rouhani said that "major issues like sanctions" were agreed upon by diplomats, but other issues were still being discussed, the Associated Press reported. Diplomats from Russia and China alongside a European Union official in charge of the talks expressed that more progress is needed in the discussions that will resume next week in Vienna.

In a display of positivity, Rouhani said "we have taken a major and big step and the main agreement has been done."

Representatives from Russia, China, Germany, France and Britain were present for talks with Iran about the nuclear deal that the U.S. pulled out of in 2018 and the U.S. sanctions on Iran that were imposed under former President Donald Trump. The aim of the talks in Vienna is for Iran to agree to the original limitations of the nuclear deal and for the U.S. to remove its sanctions on Iran.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani
President of Iran Hassan Rouhani said a "major" agreement has been made in ongoing talks with world powers about Iran's nuclear deal. Mikhail Svetlov

Iran's president offered his most optimistic assessment yet of ongoing talks to resuscitate his country's nuclear deal with world powers even as other nations involved suggested challenges remain.

The comments by Rouhani come as Iran prepares for a June 18 election to determine who will replace the relatively moderate cleric. Saving his signature atomic accord before the vote could boost reformist and moderate candidates backing Rouhani's agenda in an election in which many believe hard-liners already hold an edge.

Speaking at a ceremony inaugurating several petrochemical projects, Rouhani asserted that solutions to "major issues like sanctions" had been agreed to by diplomats.

Rouhani's comment came just as Mikhail Ulyanov, a Russian diplomat involved in the talks, tweeted that it "is obvious now that the Vienna talks on (deal) will not be completed by May 21 as the participants hoped." He described the situation as "regrettable but not dramatic."

"May 21 wasn't a deadline but a target date. It helped us not to forget about time pressure," Ulyanov wrote. "The talks will continue until successful outcome."

That mirrored comments Wednesday by Enrique Mora, the European Union official who chaired the talks between Russia, China, Germany, France, Britain and Iran. He told reporters "we have made substantial progress" though there were "still things to be worked out."

Chinese diplomat Wang Qun was paraphrased by the state-run Xinhua news agency as saying "there is still some distance away from the goal of reaching an agreement." European diplomats involved said after the talks that they were "beginning to see the contours of what a final deal could look like" but that "success is not guaranteed."

Diplomats agreed to resume the talks in Vienna next week.

Specifics have been few from weeks of talks in Vienna.

Iran has refused to engage in any direct talks with the U.S., however. Tehran now enriches small quantities of uranium to 60% purity, its highest level ever, maintains an ever-growing stockpile of lower-enriched uranium and operates advanced centrifuges — all things prohibited by the accord.

The Mideast also has been engulfed by a series of escalatory incidents involving the U.S. and Iran in the time since.

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency faces a looming deadline with Iran over its inspections of Tehran's nuclear sites. It reached a temporary deal with Iran in February to ensure inspections continued, though Iran stopped allowing it to access footage recorded on cameras monitoring its nuclear sites.

Iran vowed to hold onto the footage for three months, but warned it would erase it if sanctions relief didn't come. That three-month deadline expires either Friday under the Gregorian calendar or Monday under the Persian calendar.

The IAEA said Thursday it "and Iran are currently in consultations regarding the implementation of the existing understanding."

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran
In this April 10, 2021 file photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani, second right, listens to head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi while visiting an exhibition of Iran's new nuclear achievements in Tehran, Iran. Iran's president on Thursday offered his most-optimistic assessment yet of ongoing talks to resuscitate his country's nuclear deal with world powers, claiming there had been "major" agreement among diplomats even as other nations involved suggested challenges remain. Uncreditied/Iranian Presidency Office via AP, File