Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, on a visit to Tehran, said he believes a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran is possible within six months.
"I'm convinced, if there is goodwill on both sides, a deal is possible within the very ambitious time frame of six months," Bildt said. "It's not going to be easy and it requires a genuine will for compromises on both sides. But I think the benefits that are there for both sides are so obvious that everyone should focus minds on actually achieving it."
Talking to journalists alongside his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Bildt added that it is up to Iran to prove the peaceful nature of its nuclear program.
"Needless to say, we respect the right of Iran to a peaceful nuclear energy program," Bildt said. "Sweden has one. But it is up to Iran, within the talks, to agree on the modalities to make certain there is complete international confidence in this."
Zarif said in Berlin on February 3 that he, too, believed a final deal was possible within six months.
Iran clinched the interim deal in November with the P5+1 group -- Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, plus Germany -- under which it agreed to curb its controversial nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
"There has been some sanctions relief. I think that's important," Bildt said. "I think it's very important now -- and I take it for granted that will happen, according to the agreement [regarding] the sanctions relief -- that Iran will respect its obligations and that this will provide the opportunity for moving forward with the comprehensive deal and also more comprehensive dealing with the sanctions issue."
U.S. officials confirmed on February that Iran has received $550 million in previously frozen funds -- the first tranche from a $4.2 billion total that Tehran will receive as part of the deal.
The six-month interim deal, which took effect January 20, is intended to buy time to negotiate a comprehensive accord that would reassure Western powers that Iran's nuclear program is entirely peaceful, as Tehran has long maintained.
Negotiations are expected to resume in Vienna on February 18.
Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters