Iran FM Says Nuclear Deal Talks ‘Accomplished Quite a Bit’ – ABC News
The foreign minister of Iran said tonight negotiators “accomplished quite a bit” today and he hopes that the process of drafting an agreement can begin Wednesday.
“We’ve accomplished quite a bit, but people needed to get some rest and start over early in the morning,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said. “And I hope we can finalize the work on Wednesday — and hopefully begin the process of drafting tomorrow.”
The State Department had said earlier today that negotiators trying to produce a nuclear accord with Iran would fail to meet their self-imposed March 31 deadline to come up with a broad political understanding about eliminating Iran’s pathway to a bomb.
“We’ve made enough progress in the last days to merit staying until Wednesday,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement to reporters in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the talks are being held. “There are several difficult issues still remaining.”
President Obama was updated on the talks this evening in a teleconference with Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz and other members of the negotiating team in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Less than 24 hours ago, Harf said there was a “50/50″ chance that they could come to a deal. Officials inside the negotiations are not commenting on why more time is needed, but the sticking points during these talks have been clear.
They’ve included disagreements on how many centrifuges — which are used to enrich nuclear fuel — might remain online at Iran’s deep-buried Fordo nuclear reactor, whether or not Iran will be allowed to continue nuclear research and development for scientific purposes, and what to do with the stockpile of enriched uranium already owns.
Negotiators on all sides have been working towards this deadline since November 2013. That’s when Iran and the so-called P5 +1 (U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China plus Germany) agreed on a Joint Plan of Action (JPA), an interim agreement that paved the way for talks by temporarily halting Iran’s nuclear enrichment program and subjecting it to daily inspections in exchange for the loosening of some economic sanctions.
“If we are making progress toward the finish line, then we should keep going,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said today, but he added that if talks fail, then the U.S. would be forced to “consider some other alternatives.”
Though there is still hope in Lausanne that an agreement can be reached, some in Congress are already calling this delay a failure of diplomacy.
“The decision to extend the nuclear negotiations in the face of Iranian intransigence and duplicity proves once again that Iran is calling the shots,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, said in a statement. Cotton gained notoriety after authoring a controversial letter to Iran’s supreme leader, warning in it that future U.S. presidents have the power to overturn any nuclear deal.
“The best solution is walk away from the nuclear negotiations now and return to a position of strength,” Cotton added. “We should reinstate existing sanctions suspended under the Joint Plan of Action and Congress should act immediately to impose new sanctions. It’s time for the United States to regain the upper hand and quit negotiating out of weakness.”