Kerry Hopes for Deal Sooner Than Expected

Kerry Hopes for Deal Sooner Than Expected  Kerry Hopes for Deal Sooner Than Expected

US Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed hope that Iran and its international negotiating partners would be able to reach a final nuclear deal within three or four months.

"Though it said seven months, we're not looking at seven months… I think the target is three, four months, and hopefully even sooner if that is possible," Kerry said on Sunday in his speech to an Israeli-dominated audience at the Brookings Institution's 2014 Saban Forum, according to a transcript of his remarks posted on the website of the US Department of State.

Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) missed a self-imposed November 24 deadline to strike a comprehensive deal to resolve the long-running dispute over Tehran's nuclear work and agreed to extend their talks until the end of next June to reach a long-term settlement. They are expected to complete a framework agreement by March and work out the technical details of the final deal in the remaining time.       

Kerry said, "Over the past year, we and our P5+1 partners have been engaged in intense and tough negotiations with the Iranian government in hopes of finding a comprehensive, durable, and verifiable arrangement that resolves all of the international community’s concerns."

He also said, "We believe that the best way to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon is through a verified, negotiated agreement… we are convinced that the best way to create accountability is through a verified negotiated agreement that resolves the international community’s legitimate concerns, proves that Iran’s program is peaceful, as it says it is, and gives the Iranian people, with whom we have no specific quarrel, the chance for a better future.

"Now, obviously, this process takes time. The stakes are high, the issues are complicated and technical, and if we are, in fact, to cut off all the pathways through which Iran could obtain enough fissile material for a bomb, every detail matters enormously. But it also takes time because we will not settle for just any agreement. We want the right agreement."

Iran denies the allegation that it may have been seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability under the guise a civilian program, saying its nuclear activities are solely for peaceful purposes, including electricity generation and medical applications.

Elsewhere, Kerry argued that the interim nuclear deal Iran and the major powers signed in Geneva late last year was a success.

He said, "Today, Iran has lived up to every commitment it made in the interim agreement… How do we know that? Because the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and our partners have been able to verify that Iran is indeed honoring the JPOA (Joint Plan of Action, the official name of the Geneva accord) commitments.

"Today, IAEA inspectors have daily access – daily access – to Iran’s enrichment facilities, including Fordo, and we have developed a far deeper understanding of Iran’s nuclear program, its centrifuge production, its uranium mines and mills. Iran’s entire stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium has been diluted or converted… and they have suspended all uranium enrichment above 5 percent. All progress on the Arak plutonium reactor is frozen in place. No new components have been put in that would allow them to commission it."

***Flexibility Has Emerged

In addition, he said, "We also have no intention of negotiating forever. And absent measurable progress, who knows how much longer this could go on? As of now, with significant gaps still remaining, we do not know if we will be able to make it.

"But we also know for sure that a negotiated settlement, a negotiated outcome, if it meets our standards, is the best way to account for and close off all of Iran’s potential pathways to a nuclear weapon. And in recent weeks, we have seen new ideas surface, flexibility emerge that could – I repeat, could – help resolve some issues that had been intractable.

"And that is why, two weeks ago in Vienna, when we reached the most recent deadline that we’d set for the negotiation, we all agreed to extend them for this brief period of time."

In conclusion, Kerry said, "Now, why are we doing this? Because I believe, President Obama believes, the administration deeply believes that it would be the height of irresponsibility, it would be against our own interests and those of our closest partners, to walk away from a table when and if a peaceful resolution might really be within reach."

In reference to Kerry's remarks, the chairman of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee said on Monday, "If the talks fail to reach a conclusion, the situation that existed before the Geneva agreement will return."

It means that Iran will resume production of enriched uranium to a purity level of 20 percent and will reverse the decision to accept temporary constraints on its nuclear program, he said.