Secretary of State John Kerry emerged from nuclear talks in Vienna today saying that the final negotiations are “not open-ended” but will extend indefinitely.
“President Obama made it very clear to me last night we can’t wait forever for the decisions to be made. We know that,” Kerry said. “If the tough decisions don’t get made, we are absolutely prepared to call an end to this process.”
Kerry acknowledged the pack of journalists that was in Austria for a couple of “very difficult” weeks now. “But let me assure you we would not be here continuing to negotiate just for the sake of negotiating,” he said. “We’re here because we believe we are making real progress toward a comprehensive deal.”
“…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.”
Kerry stressed that “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,” he said. “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.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif issued a cryptic tweet a few hours ago: “We’re working hard, but not rushed, to get the job done. Mark my words; you can’t change horses in the middle of a stream.”
There were reports in Iranian media that Russia is having extensive influence in the talks. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tweeted today that “lifting the arms embargo will help Iran fight terrorism more effectively.”
Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported that “excessive” U.S. demands are holding up the talks, citing an unnamed diplomat as saying the U.S. team has “started psychological operations and are playing the blame game to make Iran surrender to their increasing demands or wait to be portrayed as the party to blame for the potential failure of the talks.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told CNN “the trend has been bad for about six weeks, and I think that Iran was using this deadline to their advantage.”
“So I’m thankful that they’re waiting and I hope what they’re saying is they’re willing to walk away from the table if on these last elements that are so key — the anytime, anywhere inspection, the PMD [possible military dimensions] issues, the way the sanctions will be relieved, some constraints on research and development, if they’re still working on those and if Iran is still being the way they have been on these issues, I’d rather just continue on with no agreement,” Corker said.
Corker said he’s been in contact with some officials during the talks, but not Kerry.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said lawmakers have “not been briefed at all.”
“The president bases all of this on the delusion that an agreement will then cause a new partnership between the United States and Iran in the region,” McCain told MSNBC. “Meanwhile, the Iranians continue their aggression in at least four countries and will continue that. For example, media reports Suleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, is back in Iraq, directing the Shiite militias without our involvement whatsoever. That’s a long way from where we were in 2011.”