U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have begun face-to-face talks in Oman just two weeks ahead of a deadline for reaching a nuclear deal. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is also taking part in Sunday's talks.
From left, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, European Union adviser Catherine Ashton, Omani Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs Yussef bin Alawi and US Secretary of State John Kerry meet in Muscat, Oman, Nov. 9, 2014.
Kerry and Zarif shook hands but made no comments to the media as they prepared to begin their discussions in Oman's capital, Muscat.
Speaking before departing Beijing on Saturday, Kerry said there are "real gaps" in talks to reach an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program. He also stressed that the nuclear negotiations are separate from other issues, including possible cooperation with Iran in the fight against Islamic State militants.
President Barack Obama said last week that the United States, the other permament members of the U.N. Security Council (Russia, China, United Kingdom and France) and Germany have given Iran a framework for a nuclear agreement.
He called the framework a step-by-step, verifiable way for Iran to get out from under crippling sanctions and rejoin the international community.
But the president called it an "open question" whether the Iranian leadership will do what is best.
The United States and the rest of the P5 plus 1 countries want Iran to curb its uranium enrichment abilities to keep it from being able to build a nuclear bomb. In exchange, the U.N. would lift economic sanctions.
Iran has consistently denied wanting to build nuclear weapons.
... Payvand News - 11/09/14 ... --