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Kerry to Iran: Deal Possible, but Time is Running Out

U.S. Secretary of State warns Iran that a nuclear deal is still possible, but time is running out.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 7/2/2014, 5:42 AM

John Kerry
John Kerry
Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is warning Iran that a nuclear deal is still possible, but time is running out.

In an editorial piece which appeared in The Washington Post on Monday, Kerry wrote, “All along, these negotiations have been about a choice for Iran’s leaders. They can agree to the steps necessary to assure the world that their country’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful and not be used to build a weapon, or they can squander a historic opportunity to end Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation and improve the lives of their people.”

“Diplomacy and leadership are marked by tough calls. This shouldn’t be one of them,” wrote Kerry.

“Iranian officials have stated repeatedly and unambiguously that they have no intention of building a nuclear weapon and that their nuclear activities are designed solely to fulfill civilian needs. Assuming that’s true, it’s not a hard proposition to prove.”

“Throughout these talks, Iran’s negotiators have been serious. Iran has also defied the expectations of some by meeting its obligations under the Joint Plan of Action, which has allowed time and space for the comprehensive negotiations to proceed. Specifically, Iran has been eliminating its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium, limited its enrichment capability by not installing or starting up additional centrifuges, refrained from making further advances at its enrichment facilities and heavy-water reactor, and allowed new and more frequent inspections.”

“In exchange, the European Union and the P5+1 have provided limited financial relief to Iran, even as the architecture of international sanctions and the vast majority of sanctions themselves remained firmly in place,” Kerry added.

“Now Iran must choose,” he declared. “During the comprehensive negotiations, the world has sought nothing more than for Iran to back up its words with concrete and verifiable actions. We have, over the past several months, proposed a series of reasonable, verifiable and easily achievable measures that would ensure Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon and that its program is limited to peaceful purposes. In return, Iran would be granted phased relief from nuclear-related sanctions.”

“What will Iran choose? Despite many months of discussion, we don’t know yet. We do know that substantial gaps still exist between what Iran’s negotiators say they are willing to do and what they must do to achieve a comprehensive agreement. We also know that their public optimism about the potential outcome of these negotiations has not been matched, to date, by the positions they have articulated behind closed doors,” said Kerry.

He revealed that there is a “discrepancy between Iran’s professed intent with respect to its nuclear program and the actual content of that program to date. The divide between what Iran says and what it has done underscores why these negotiations are necessary and why the international community united to impose sanctions in the first place.”

“Iran’s claim that the world should simply trust its words ignores the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported since 2002 on dozens of violations by Iran of its international nonproliferation obligations, starting in the early 1980s,” noted Kerry. “The UN Security Council responded by adopting four resolutions under Chapter VII, requiring Iran to take steps to address these violations. These issues cannot be dismissed; they must be addressed by the Iranians if a comprehensive solution is to be reached. These are not just the expectations of any one country, but of the community of nations.”

“To gain relief from sanctions, the world is simply asking Iran to demonstrate that its nuclear activities are what it claims them to be,” he wrote, adding that the negotiations with Iran have a chance to succeed “but time is running short.”

Iran and the six powers, also known as the P5+1, have been striving to turn an interim deal signed in November into a comprehensive settlement by July 20.

So far there has been little progress and Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said following the last round that Iran rejected the West’s "excessive demands".

At the same time, Zarif previously indicated that the sides have started drafting a comprehensive agreement, though “there are still many differences” over the text.

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who has been leading the U.S. team in the negotiations with Iran, recently indicated that it is unclear whether Iran is ready to take the steps necessary to assure the world its nuclear ambitions are entirely peaceful.

Sherman said the fifth round of Vienna talks produced a "working document" that is "heavily bracketed" due to remaining disagreements, making clear much work remains to reach a deal.

Israel, meanwhile, has repeatedly warned against the impending nuclear deal between Iran and the West. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reiterated his warnings this week.