Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters Saturday afternoon that "big" and "serious gaps" remain between the United States and Iran as both nations rush to ink a deal aimed at containing Tehran's nuclear work just over 48 hours before a self-imposed deadline for the talks expires.
In between sit-downs with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Kerry consulted with major players in the Middle East, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a senior State Department official told the Free Beacon.
With the deadline approaching, Kerry admitted that talks have been very difficult, though he refused to provide actual details about what has been discussed.
"We’re working hard and we hope we’re making careful progress, but we have big gaps, we still have some serious gaps, which we’re working to close," Kerry told reporters. "The good thing is [that Western negotiators involved in talks] are united and working in concert and we’re simply going to not say anything substantive about the discussions while they’re going on, but a lot of serious work is going on by a lot of people."
Between these meetings with Zarif and European officials, Kerry separately consulted with Netanyahu about the negotiations and separately then separately held a similar call with Arab leaders, a senior State Department official told the Free Beacon. The latter call included senior officials from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Quatar, Bahrain, and Turkey, the official said.
Sources familiar with the status of the talks said that despite tough rhetoric from Kerry and other Western leaders, there are numerous signs that they are moving closer to Iran's demands.
As Kerry entered a second meeting with Iran's Zarif Saturday evening in Vienna, sources speculated that some version of a framework for a final deal would be presented by Monday, but that an extension in the talks is most likely to occur.
"They are desperate to show some kind of progress. Anything," said one source familiar with the talks.
Officials are expected to continue talking on Sunday and make an announcement about their progress on Monday.
Under one scenario, the sides will announce progress and decide to return to their home nations for further consultations about a final accord. Talks, in this case, could resume as early as December, after the Thanksgiving holiday.