Catherine Ashton, the High Commissioner of European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, participates in a press conference in Vienna, Austria, early July 19, 2014. Iranian nuclear talks will be extended for four more months till Nov. 24, as stakeholders still have "significant gaps on core issues," said Ashton. (Xinhua/Qian Yi)
VIENNA, July 19 (Xinhua) -- Iranian nuclear talks will be extended for another four months till Nov. 24, as stakeholders still have "significant gaps on core issues," the European Union and Iran said here Saturday.
"We have made tangible progress on some of the issues," said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a joint statement, but "there are still significant gaps on some core issues which will require more time and effort."
Ashton is leading the talks on behalf of the six world powers, namely the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany, to settle the decade-old disputes over Iran's nuclear program.
The joint statement came only one day ahead of the July 20 deadline for a final and comprehensive agreement on Iran's nuclear program.
Meanwhile, the Joint Plan of Action, known as the interim deal, will also be extended till Nov. 24.
The interim deal, which took effect on Jan. 20, was designed to buy time for negotiations. Under the deal, Iran would suspend some sensitive nuclear activities in exchange for limited sanction relief.
Iran and the six world powers "reaffirmed that they will continue to implement all their commitments described in the Joint Plan of Action in an efficient and timely manner," Ashton said.
Chief negotiator of the Chinese delegation, Wang Qun, supported the extension in a later statement, saying the agreement will help to resolve the problem through political negotiations.
China hopes the participants will value this opportunity and adopt a "gung-ho attitude" in the coming talks, Wang Qun said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned earlier this month that if there is not enough progress in the talks by July 20, the U.S. may not allow them to continue.
Kerry stayed in Vienna for three days engaging in tough negotiations with his Iranian counterpart Zarif earlier this week.
In recent months, the talks for a final deal stalled as the two sides are still far apart on some core issues, such as Iran's future enrichment capacity.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last Tuesday that Iran needs 190,000 separative work units (SWUs) for uranium enrichment, much higher than the West's anticipation under a comprehensive agreement.
According to the EU foreign policy chief, the participating parties will reconvene in the coming weeks.
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