Kerry: 'Very Real Gaps' Remain with Iran, Coming Back to D.C. to 'Consult' with Obama, Congress

Just five days away from the deadline for a final nuclear agreement with Iran, Secretary of State John Kerry said "very real gaps" remain between P5+1 and Iranian negotiators in Vienna.

"Despite the difficulties of these negotiations, I am confident that the United States and our partners in the P5+1 remain as squarely focused as ever on testing whether or not we can find a negotiated solution to this most pressing international security imperative," Kerry told reporters today.

He said he'd had "lengthy conversations" with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif over the past few days "about what Iran is willing to do and what it needs to do to not only assure the community of nations, but to adhere to what the foreign minister himself has said repeatedly are Iran’s own limited objectives: not just to declare that they will not obtain a nuclear weapon, but to demonstrate in the actions they take beyond any reasonable doubt that any Iranian nuclear program, now and going forward, is exclusively for peaceful purposes."

"In these conversations, and indeed over the last almost six months since the Joint Plan of Action took effect, we have made progress. We have all kept the commitments made in the Joint Plan, and we have all lived up to our obligations. We have all continued to negotiate in good faith. But after my conversations here with both Iran and with our P5+1 partners in particular, it is clear that we still have more work to do," Kerry said.

"Our team will continue working very hard to try to reach a comprehensive agreement that resolves the international community’s concerns. I am returning to Washington today to consult with President Obama and with leaders in Congress over the coming days about the prospects for a comprehensive agreement, as well as a path forward if we do not achieve one by the 20th of July, including the question of whether or not more time is warranted, based on the progress we’ve made and how things are going. As I have said, and I repeat, there has been tangible progress on key issues, and we had extensive conversations in which we moved on certain things. However, there are also very real gaps on other key issues. And what we are trying to do is find a way for Iran to have an exclusively peaceful nuclear program, while giving the world all the assurances required to know that Iran is not seeking a nuclear weapon."

Members of Congress, including Democrats, have been wary from the beginning of this process of the Obama administration setting the July 20 deadline but secretly expecting that they could extend that indefinitely -- while Iran continues to develop its nuclear program.

Kerry insisted that the goal is "realistic," but "we have not yet found the right combination or arrived at the workable formula."

Zarif told the New York Times that Iran is willing to accept short-term concessions for longer-term freedom with its nuclear program.

"I am definitively not going to negotiate in public," Kerry said in response to the story. "I’m not going to comment on any stories with respect to substance one way or the other. The real negotiation is not going to be done in the public eye; it’s going to be done in the private meetings that we’re having, and it is being done there. And I might add these are tough negotiations. The Iranians are strong in their positions. They understand what their needs are, we understand what ours are. Both are working in good faith to try to find a way forward."