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Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters following intense 11th hour talks in Geneva early Sunday that a deal had been reached, the Associated Press reported.
The easing of sanctions also means that Iran may now have access to billions of dollars in frozen offshore funds. However, no further details of the agreement – which caps nearly a decade of fractious diplomacy under the threat of war – have been released to the media.
US President Barack Obama confirmed the interim agreement during a televised address late on Saturday (EST) saying that Washington and its allies managed to convince Iran to “roll back key elements of its nuclear programme”.
He added that in the next six months, the US would work with Iran to reach a comprehensive agreement. However, he warned that if Iran were to fail to meet its commitments, its access to previously frozen funds would cease as Washington would reapply pressure through sanctions and diplomatic means.
“This is the most tangible progress we have reached with Iran since I took office,” Obama said.
The second round of talks, which began on November 20, were described by some officials as “difficult”, and often appeared to be on the verge of collapse.
However, Both Russia and the US remained hopeful that the talks would lead to some positive conclusion. On Wednesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the parties to the talks had been closer than at any time in a decade to reach a deal.
The US had been pushing Iran to agree to more intrusive inspections by nuclear weapons experts, while Iran had demanded that world powers acknowledge its rights to develop a peaceful nuclear power.
It is unclear whether this interim deal includes these two provisions.
Intense negotiations between Iran and the P5 + 1 came very soon following the election of Hassan Rouhani to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as President.
“An opening for diplomacy emerged,” Obama said about the reported thawing of relations between the two countries.
“We have pursued intensive diplomacy bilaterally with Iran, and together with our allies,” he added.