Vienna, 10 Jul – The world powers will not be rushed into making a nuclear deal with Iran, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday. His remarks suggested an accord with Iran was unlikely hours ahead of a deadline set by the US Congress for a quick review.
“We’re here because we believe we are making real progress toward a comprehensive deal. But as I have said many times and as I discussed with President Obama last night, we are not going to sit at the negotiating table forever”, Kerry told reporters.
“We also recognize that we shouldn’t get up and leave simply because the clock strikes midnight. And I emphasize, given that the work here is incredibly technical and that the stakes are very, very high, we will not rush and we will not be rushed, and we won’t let ourselves be rushed through any aspect of this. All that we are focused on is the quality of the agreement, and that is what will continue to define our work”.
“If, in the end, we are able to reach a deal, it has to be one that can withstand the test of time. It is not a test of a matter of days or weeks or months. It’s a test for decades. That’s our goal here. And the simple fact is that despite all of the progress that we have made – and it’s real – some of the tough issues remain unresolved. We know that difficult decisions don’t become easier over time, and one way or the other those decisions must be taken very soon”.
“That is precisely why all of our delegations remain hard at work here in Vienna, and it’s why a number of my counterparts returned last night and are here now so that we can continue to push through on the tough issues and ultimately see whether or not the good deal that we have been working for so hard is possible to achieve. That’s what we’re working on and that’s what we’ll continue to work on”.
“This is not open-ended. President Obama made it very clear to me last night we can’t wait forever for the decisions to be made. We know that. If the tough decisions don’t get made, we are absolutely prepared to call an end to this process”, he added.
In another sign that an agreement was not at hand, a senior Iranian official accused the US and others nations of shifting their positions and backtracking on an April 2 interim agreement that was meant to lay the ground for a final deal.
The comments suggested Iran and the major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – have a way to go to reach a deal under which Iran would curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
Briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, the senior Iranian official sought to put the onus on the West for any failure to reach an agreement.
“There have been changes of position … particularly since last night,” said the official, “Suddenly everyone has their own red lines. Britain has its red line, the US has its red line, France, Germany…”
The official also said that Iran was looking forward to seeing whether the United States would “abandon its obsession with sanctions”.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi has said the main text of a final agreement, as well as five technical annexes, were “around 96 percent complete”.
While the lifting of sanctions was largely agreed, Araqchi said Tehran’s demand for an end to a UN Security Council arms embargo was among the most contentious unresolved points.
Other sticking points in the negotiations have included Iran’s research and development on advanced centrifuges and access to Iranian military sites and nuclear sites.
Tehran says a UN embargo on conventional arms has nothing to do with the nuclear issues and must be lifted in any deal. Western countries do not want allow Iran to begin importing arms because of its role supporting sides in Middle East conflicts.
Iran has powerful support on this issue from Russia. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a summit of BRICS countries – Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa – that the UN arms embargo should be among the first sanctions lifted.
Western officials sought to strike a balance between pushing Iran to cut a deal yet suggesting they were not in a hurry to deprive the Iranians of leverage that might come from a belief that the major powers wanted an accord more than they did.
“We are very close but if the important … decisions are not made in the next hours, we won’t (have) an agreement”, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told CNN. “That moment of truth will come extremely soon, next hours I think”.
Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency quoted an unnamed source blaming the US for the standoff.
“While the Iranian team is showing flexibility, the Americans are refusing to accept Iran’s obvious right, particularly on sanctions”, Fars quoted the source as saying.
France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the parties would continue negotiating overnight to try to resolve the “difficult issues” that remained in nuclear talks. He added that “things are … going in the right direction”.
Negotiators have given themselves until the end of the day on Friday. But if a deal is not reached by 6:00 a.m. in Vienna (0400 GMT), the sceptical Republican-led U.S. Congress will have 60 days rather than 30 days to review it, extra time US President Barack Obama’s administration worries could derail it.
Western countries accuse Iran of seeking the capability to build nuclear weapons, while Tehran says its program is peaceful. A deal would depend on Iran accepting curbs on its nuclear program in return for the easing of economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations, United States and European Union.
A successful deal could be the biggest milestone in decades towards easing hostility between Iran and the US, enemies since Iranian revolutionaries stormed the US embassy in Tehran in 1979.
Based in part on wire reports