On March 2, deputy foreign ministers from Iran and the world’s six major powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States – resumed negotiations over Iran’s controversial nuclear program in Montreux, Switzerland. Separately, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held bilateral talks with Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva, planning to join the rest of the negotiators in Montreux on March 5. The two sides are less than a month away from a self-imposed deadline for a political framework for a deal.
The new round of talks coincided with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial visit to Washington, D.C. to voice opposition to a potential nuclear deal before Congress. Zarif criticized Netanyahu’s speech as “scaremongering.”
The following are recent excerpted remarks by officials on the status of the nuclear negotiations.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
On February 26, Khamenei's official Twitter account highlighted a number of the Supreme Leader's past statements on the nuclear issue.
President Hassan Rouhani
"It is currently clear to everyone that Iran is a side who is completely serious in the talks."
– March 2, 2015, according to the press
"The nuclear issue has no other solutions than negotiation; the negotiations sought fundamentally to create mutual confidence, and we believe that sanctions should be eliminated once altogether."
– March 1, 2015, according to the press
"The world is pleased with the progress in the negotiations between Iran and the Group 5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany) since the results of this progress and agreement benefit the region and the world as well as the development, trade, economy, culture and settlement of the problems and threats created by extremism in the region and the world."
– March 3, 2015, according to the press
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
"[Netanyahu] is against any solution” and his speech in the U.S. will show his desire “to derail peace in the region through scaremongering and spreading lies, even inside other countries.”
“It’s a futile effort and it must not become an obstacle to reaching an agreement.”
“We are hopeful that this week we can attain more progress on other issues, especially the removal of these cruel sanctions, and then we can formulate this progress into a comprehensive, precise and workable agreement.”
– Feb. 28, 2015, according to the press
“It is unfortunate that there is a group which sees its interests in tension and crisis.”
Netanyahu’s bid was “an attempt to utilize a fabricated crisis to cover up realities in the region, including occupation, the suppression of Palestinians and the violation of their rights.”
“It is an on old policy to intimidate and spread lies in order to prevent peace in the region.”
– Feb. 28, 2015, at a joint press conference with Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni
"Our negotiating partners, particularly the Western countries and particularly the United States, must once and for all come to the understanding that sanctions and agreement don't go together.”
"If they want an agreement, sanctions must go... We believe all sanctions must be lifted."
"We have made some progress since last time and if there is the political will to accept that an agreement and sanctions cannot go together, then we can have an agreement this time."
– March 3, 2015, according to the press
"Iran is not about building nuclear weapons...We don't want to build nuclear weapons, we don't believe nuclear weapons bring security to anybody, certainly not to us."
Iran's nuclear ambitions are solely in the pursuit of "scientific advancement" and boosting national pride. "Once we reach that understanding, once this hysteria is out, once this fear mongering is out, then we can have a deal, and a deal that is not going to hurt anybody."
"We are prepared to work round the clock in order to reach an agreement. We believe that we are very close, very close and we could be very far...there are details that need to be worked out."
"We are very close if the political decision can be made to get to yes, as President Obama said."
– March 4, 2015, in an interview with NBC News
Atomic Energy Organizaton of Iran Leader Ali Akbar Salehi
"We have taken very good steps and managed to remove, as we believe, their fake concerns and worries through the technical offers we proposed."
– March 7, 2015, according to the press
The United States
President Barack Obama
“There is enormous suspicion between the Iranian regime and the world, not just the United States.
The Iranians have negotiated seriously because we were able to bring them to the table through some of the toughest sanctions that have been ever put in place. We have made progress in narrowing the gaps, but those gaps still exist. And I would say that over the next month or so, we're going to be able to determine whether or not their system is able to accept what would be an extraordinarily reasonable deal, if in fact, as they say, they are only interested in peaceful nuclear programs.
And if we have unprecedented transparency in that system, if we are able to verify that in fact they are not developing weapon systems, then there's deal to be had. But that's going to require them to accept the kind of verification and constraints on their program that, so far at least, they have not been willing to say yes to.”
“I think it is fair to say that there is an urgency because we now have been negotiating for well over a year.
And the good news is, is that during this period Iran has abided by the terms of the agreement, we know what is happening on the ground in Iraq. They have not advanced their nuclear program. We have been able to roll back their 20 percent highly enriched uranium during this period of time. It's given us unprecedented access into what they are doing. So we're not losing anything through these talks.
“If there's no deal, then we walk away. If we cannot verify that they are not going to obtain a nuclear weapon, that there's a breakout period, so that even if they cheated we would be able to have enough time to take action, if we don't have that kind of deal, then we're not going to take it.”– March 7, 2015, in an interview with CBS
Secretary of State John Kerry
Secretary Kerry, one of Iran’s vice presidents said today that Netanyahu’s speech actually serves Iran’s interests. I was recently in Iran and there were a lot of people who wanted this agreement. Does Netanyahu’s action actually help Iran?
SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah, I’m just not going to play the game of walking into a debate about Iranian propaganda with respect to this visit. As I said, the prime minister is welcome in the United States at any time. We have an – we have an unparalleled close security relationship with Israel and we will continue to.
President Obama has done more to ensure the security of Israel by the creation of Iron Dome, by the development of weapons that are specifically calculated to be able to deal with Iran’s nuclear weapon problem. And the president has pledged that they will not get a nuclear weapon.
Now, I guarantee you, we have said again and again, no deal is better than a bad deal. We’re not going to make a bad deal. But remember, Martha, there were many people who opposed the interim agreement and said that was terrible. The fact is, the interim agreement has been adhered to. It has been inspected. We have proven that we have slowed Iran’s, even set back its nuclear program. And we are going to continue now to the next step to see – I can’t promise you we can. But we are going to test whether or not diplomacy can prevent this weapon from being created, so you don’t have to return to additional measures, including the possibility of a military confrontation.
Our hope is diplomacy can work. And I believe, given our success on the interim agreement, I believe we deserve the benefit of the doubt to find out whether or not we can get a similarly good agreement with respect to the future. It is better to do this by diplomacy than to have to do a strategy militarily, which you would have to repeat over and over again and which I think everybody believes ought to be after you have exhausted all the diplomatic remedies.
– March 1, 2015, in an interview with ABC’s Martha Raddatz
"We continue to believe, all the members of the P5+1, that the best way to deal with the questions surrounding this nuclear program is to find a comprehensive deal, but not a deal that comes at any cost, not a deal just for the purpose of a deal; a deal that meets the test of providing the answers and the guarantees that are needed in order to know that the four pathways to a nuclear bomb have been closed off. And that is the task. And we hope it is possible to get there, but there is no guarantee.
Sanctions alone are not going to provide that solution. What needs to happen is that Iran needs to provide a verifiable set of commitments that its program is in fact peaceful. And that average people and experts alike looking at that verifiable set of commitments have confidence that they are sustainable, that they are real, and that they will provide the answers and guarantees well into the future.
Any deal must close every potential pathway that Iran has towards fissile material, whether it’s uranium, plutonium, or a covert path. The fact is only a good, comprehensive deal in the end can actually check off all of those boxes.
Now, I want to be clear about two things. Right now, no deal exists, no partial deal exists. And unless Iran is able to make the difficult decisions that will be required, there won’t be a deal. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. That is the standard by which this negotiation is taking place, and anyone who tells you otherwise is simply misinformed.
Now, we are concerned by reports that suggest selective details of the ongoing negotiations will be discussed publicly in the coming days. I want to say clearly that doing so would make it more difficult to reach the goal that Israel and others say they share in order to get a good deal. Israel’s security is absolutely at the forefront of all of our minds, but frankly, so is the security of all the other countries in the region, so is our security in the United States. And we are very clear that as we negotiate with Iran, if we are able to reach the kind of deal that we’re hoping for, then it would have to be considered in its entirety and measured against alternatives.
Second – I cannot emphasize this enough. I have said this from the first moment that I become engaged in this negotiating process, President Obama has said this repeatedly: We will not accept a bad deal. We have said no deal is better than a bad deal, because a bad deal could actually make things less secure and more dangerous. Any deal that we would possibly agree to would make the international community, and especially Israel, safer than it is today. That’s our standard. So our team is working very hard to close remaining gaps, to reach a deal that ensures Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively and verifiably peaceful, and we have made some progress, but we still have a long way to go and the clock is ticking."
– March 2, 2015, at a press briefing in Geneva
"As Foreign Minister Fabius said a moment ago, we want an agreement that’s solid. We want an agreement that will guarantee that we are holding any kind of program that continues in Iran accountable to the highest standards so that we know that it is, in fact, a peaceful program. All of us in the P5+1 are deeply committed to ensuring that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon. And we continue to believe that a comprehensive deal that includes intrusive access and verification measures, and blocks each of the pathways to securing fissile material for a bomb and then to try and make a bomb itself, that the best way to achieve the goal is to shut off those pathways.
Now, I agree with Laurent. We have exactly the same assessment. We have made progress, but there remain gaps – divergences, as he said. And we need to close those gaps. And that is our goal over the course of the next days. We have a critical couple of weeks ahead of us. We’re all mindful that the days are ticking by. But we’re not feeling a sense of urgency that we have to get any deal. We have to get the right deal. And it is frankly up to Iran – that wants this program, that wants a peaceful program, that asserts that they have a peaceful program – to show the world that it is indeed exactly what they say. That’s the measure here. And we planned a return to the talks. Starting next Sunday, different folks will be having different conversations, and we look forward to trying to drive this thing to an appropriate conclusion. And we will find out whether or not Iran is prepared to take the steps to answer the questions that the world has a right to get answers to."
– March 7, 2015, at a press briefing with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in Paris
French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius
"We are in favor of a solid agreement ... for now there remain difficulties. There has been progress but as far as the volume, checks and duration of the envisaged commitments are concerned, the situation is still insufficient, so there is more work to be done.”
– March 6, 2015 in remarks to reporters in Riga
High Representative Federica Mogherini
“I believe a good deal is at hand. I also believe that there is not going to be any deal if it is not going to be a good deal. And this is something we have to pass as a message to all our friends and partners.”
– March 6, 2015 at a foreign policy conference in Riga
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
"By all means, we assist [the negotiations'] successful and timely completion and pursue agreements that would be firmly based on nuclear non-proliferation treaty principles and best practices of the International Atomic Energy Agency."– March 2, 2015, according to the press
"At a meeting with [US Secretary of State John] Kerry and [Iranian Foreign Minister Javad] Zarif, we discussed a number of issues on the Iranian nuclear program...We noted serious progress reached at the talks of the P5+1 with Tehran."
"We discussed tasks we have to solve in order to achieve a result within the agreed time frames."
– March 2, 2015, according to the press
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
"As far as Iran is concerned – and John Kerry made the point earlier – we used the opportunity last week in Paris to talk to our European partners, France and Great Britain, and to harmonize a common approach which hopefully will take us into the final round of negotiations in the search for a solution. For more than a decade, that conflict has been with us. I have been involved with – in this process in different positions, in different functions – as the foreign minister during my first stint; now again. Thus, I may be permitted to say that for the very first time in those 10 years, I’m under the impression that negotiations in the last year have been of a serious nature. Progress has been visible. But again, both of us are convinced that not all impediments have been cleared away, and thus everyone is called upon to continue to – Iran is called upon to continue to negotiate in a spirit – in a serious spirit. And we ask and urge Iran to show and express its readiness to enter into a compromise.
This is not a choice between a good or a bad deal. It’s very clear what we want to see. We want to be very clear in that what we want to see is that it is made impossible for Iran to acquire a nuclear bomb. It has to be made clear – unequivocally clear. It has to be something that can be reviewed, and we want to see that achieved on a long-term basis."