On Monday, March 17, in a press conference with his Belarus counterpart Zarif added, “It is improbable there will be any need for the foreign ministers to attend this meeting”.

The new round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 started on Tuesday, March 18. On the verge of these negotiations, 200 members of mullahs’ Majlis issued a statement threatening the negotiating team that if they shortchange the country on enrichment of uranium or development of the heavy water reactor or if they discuss Iran’s missile program, “their transgressions will be investigated”.

Previously, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had stated: Iran faces difficult decisions in the next round of nuclear negotiations. 

Similarly, Zarif said in Monday’g news conference that as the negotiations advance, the issues become more intricate and precise and thus more difficult.

Mullahs’ official news agency of IRNA reported on March 17 that while a banquet for Mohammad-javad Zarif and Catherine Ashton was expected a few hours after Iran’s negotiating team entered Vienna, the “Iranian foreign minister cancelled the banquet”.

IRNA quoted “informed sources” that this step was taken by Iran to counter “meetings by the EU High Representative in Tehran that were against diplomatic norms”. Baroness Ashton met with the mother of a blogger who has been tortured to death and a former political prisoner. The meetings were conducted in coordination with the mullahs’ foreign ministry but led to harsh reaction by regime’s powerful internal factions.