Prospects for a nuclear deal with Iran received an unexpected boost Wednesday when negotiators from Tehran and six world powers emerged from talks with a commodity rarely seen in recent Iranian diplomacy: optimism.
Two days of negotiations in Almaty, Kazakhstan, yielded little tangible progress other than a commitment to hold more talks in the coming weeks.
But both sides described an improved atmosphere and an apparent softening of bargaining positions, leading a senior Iranian official to hail a possible "turning point" in the decade-long effort to resolve the nuclear crisis.
Western and Iranian officials acknowledged that formidable obstacles still exist, including over the specific steps Tehran must take to allay concerns about its pursuit of nuclear technology.
US officials also noted that Iran has sought to prolong negotiations in the past as a stalling tactic.
Still, a senior US official at the Almaty talks said the Iranian team "appeared to listen carefully" to new proposals for ending the nuclear impasse.