The following is an excerpt from Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement on the nuclear talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers.
The journey towards a diplomatic solution began years ago. And I can tell you that I’ve personally been involved for about four years, beginning from the time that I was serving in the United States Senate. Others have been on this journey, and some of the others in our team, for even longer than that.
But as Foreign Minister Zarif and High Representative Mogherini announced moments ago, today we have reached a critical milestone in that quest. We, our P5+1, EU partners, and Iran have arrived at a consensus on the key parameters of an arrangement that, once implemented, will give the international community confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is and will remain exclusively peaceful. And over the coming weeks, with all of the conditions of the 2013 Joint Plan of Action still in effect from this moment forward, our experts will continue to work hard to build on the parameters that we have arrived at today and finalize a comprehensive deal by the end of June.
Now we have said from the beginning – I think you’ve heard me say it again and again – that we will not accept just any deal, that we will only accept a good deal. And today, I can tell you that the political understanding with details that we have reached is a solid foundation for the good deal that we are seeking. It is the foundation for a deal that will see Iran reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98 percent for 15 years. It is a deal in which Iran will cut its installed centrifuges by more than two-thirds for 10 years. It is a deal that will increase Iran’s breakout time, which was confirmed publicly today to be two to three months, and that is the time that it would take Iran to speed up its enrichment in order to produce enough fissile material for one potential nuclear weapon. And that will be expanded now, under this deal, to one year from those two to three months. That is obviously as much as six times what it is today, and what it has been for the past three years.
I’d like also to make one more point very, very clear because it has been misinterpreted and misstated, misrepresented for much of this discussion: There will be no sunset to the deal that we are working to finalize – no sunset, none. The parameters of this agreement will be implemented in phases. Some provisions will be in place for 10 years; others will be in place for 15 years; others still will be in place for 25 years. But certain provisions, including many transparency measures, will be in place indefinitely into the future. They will never expire. And the bottom line is that, under this arrangement, the international community will have confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful, providing, of course, that the provisions are adhered to. And if they aren’t, we have provisions that empower us to deal with that.
Ultimately, the parameters that we have agreed to will do exactly what we set out to do – make certain that all pathways to make enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon have been cut off, including the uranium pathway at Natanz and Fordow, and the plutonium pathway at Arak, and, of course, the covert pathway.
Now we, our partners, and Iran have agreed that the only uranium-enrichment facility Iran will operate moving forward will be the facility at Natanz. And even that one will undergo dramatic changes. The vast majority of the centrifuges and their infrastructure will be removed. And for at least the next 15 years, the stockpile will remain at 300 kilograms. And any uranium that is enriched at Natanz will be capped at 3.67 percent, which is a typical level of enrichment for civilian nuclear power, but doesn’t even begin to approach the enrichment level necessary for a weapon.
We have agreed that the facility at Fordow will halt all uranium enrichment, period – all uranium enrichment, and in fact, there will not even be any fissile material present at the site and no enrichment R&D. Instead, the facility will be converted into a nuclear physics and technology center.
We have also agreed that Iran will redesign and rebuild its heavy-water reactor at Arak so that it will no longer produce any weapons-grade plutonium. And the United States will be able to sign off, certify, the reactor’s final design, redesign. And through international cooperation, it will be transformed into a reactor supporting only peaceful nuclear research and nuclear medicine. And the calandria, as you heard earlier, will be taken out and destroyed.
We have agreed that Iran will ship all of its spent fuel from the Arak reactor out of the country for the reactor’s lifetime. And Iran has agreed to refrain from building any additional heavy-water reactors for the next 15 years at least – “at least” means still open for beyond that period in the course of the next three months.
And we have agreed that Iran will face regular and comprehensive inspections, which is the best possible way to detect any attempt to covertly produce a weapon. Not only will inspectors have regular access to all of Iran’s declared facilities indefinitely, but they will also be able to monitor the facilities that produce the centrifuges themselves and the uranium that supports the nuclear program. And they will be able to do that for at least 20 years.
This critical step will help to guard against diversion of those materials to any clandestine location or plant. In addition, Iran has agreed to allow IAEA to investigate any suspicious site or any allegations of covert nuclear activities anywhere.
So these are just a few of the key – and I mean a few – of the key measures that will make up an extraordinarily comprehensive monitoring and transparency regime when and if it is finally signed and completed over the course of the next months. Now we have been very clear, both publicly and privately, a final agreement will not rely on promises. It will rely on proof.
It is important to note that Iran, to date, has honored all of the commitments that it made under the Joint Plan of Action that we agreed to in 2013. And I ask you to think about that against the backdrop of those who predicted that it would fail and not get the job done.
And in return for Iran’s future cooperation, we and our international partners will provide relief in phases from the sanctions that have impacted Iran’s economy. And if we find at any point that Iran is not complying with this agreement, the sanctions can snap back into place. So together these parameters outline a reasonable standard that Iran can readily meet, and it is the standard that Iran has now agreed to meet.
Throughout history, diplomacy has been necessary to prevent wars and to define international boundaries, to design institutions, and to develop global norms. Simply demanding that Iran capitulate makes a nice soundbite, but it’s not a policy. It is not a realistic plan. So the true measure of this understanding is not whether it meets all the desires of one side at the expense of the other. The test is whether or not it will leave the world safer or more secure than it would be without this agreement. And there can be no question that the comprehensive plan that we are moving toward will more than pass that test.
This isn’t just my assessment. It isn’t just the assessment of the United States delegation and our experts. It is the assessment of every one of our P5+1 partners who stood up here a little while ago in front of the flags of their nations. It is the assessment of our negotiating partners – Germany, the UK, China, France, and Russia – and all of our experts who have analyzed every aspect of this issue also join in that assessment.
From the beginning, we have negotiated as a team, and we are all agreed that this is the best outcome achievable. No viable alternatives – not one – would be nearly as effective at preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon than – over a period of time than the parameters, providing they get completed and are signed.
Our political understanding arrived at today opens the door for a long-term resolution to the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. Now, we have no illusions about the fact that we still have a ways to travel before we’ll arrive at the destination that we seek. We still have many technical details to work out on both sides and still some other issues that we acknowledge still have to be resolved; for example, the duration of the UN arms and ballistic missile restrictions on Iran and the precise timing of and mechanism for the conversion of the Arak reactor and Fordow site. And of course, once we’re able to finalize a comprehensive deal, the process of implementation then remains in front of us as well. But that’s a good challenge to have, frankly.
Throughout this negotiation, we have made a diligent effort to consult with our allies, our partners, including Israel and the Gulf states, and we have vigorously reaffirmed our enduring commitment to their security. No one should mistake that. And we will continue to stand by that commitment in the years and days ahead.
Obviously, we remain deeply concerned about Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region, and we remain fully committed to addressing the full slate of issues that we currently have with Iran. But it is because we are so concerned about those issues and about the region’s security. Precisely because of that concern that we believe this deal is critical. The status quo with respect to Iran’s nuclear program is unacceptable.
And certainly, we will continue to consult closely in the days ahead with the United States Congress. They and we understand that an Iran that had a nuclear weapon in the context of today’s troubles would be even more problematic. I spent almost 30 years in the United States Senate, and I had the privilege and the responsibility of chairing the Foreign Relations Committee when we put tough sanctions in place when this regime was put in place. And that is the regime that indeed has brought this negotiation about.
We are deeply grateful for Congress’s support of the diplomatic path to date, and we appreciate their patience. There were those agitating to take action earlier. Responsible voices held off and they helped us to get to this moment, and we appreciate that. We sincerely hope that members will continue to give us the time and the space that we need to fully explain the political agreement that we have reached and to work out the remaining details of a final deal.
Before I take a few questions, I just want to take a moment to thank some very important people. The team that has been assembled throughout this process is really made up of an extraordinary group of public servants, and believe me, they have served their country and the world well in these days. I want to thank my Cabinet colleague, Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz, who was indispensable in his knowledge and his technical expertise to be able to sit down and work through some very complex issues. His background as a nuclear scientist and his expertise was essential in helping us to arrive at this moment. I also particularly want to thank my colleague at the State Department, the Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. She has been absolutely superb, indefatigable, organized, strong, clear, visionary, and we are grateful.
I also want to thank the remarkable team of experts who haven’t slept in days, who’ve kept working, who have chased down numbers on – instantaneous call at any hour, and that goes for the team back home in the United States in the laboratories, in the White House, in the State Department, all of whom have contributed to our ability to be able to know what we are doing and to be able to put this initial agreement together.
Now I want to thank the delegations also from the P5+1 countries. As I said earlier, this is a team effort, partnership, and each and every one of their political directors, each and every one of their experts, was essential to help chase down details, help us create a consensus, help us check our own figures and our own thoughts about this effort. And I particularly thank Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of France, Foreign Secretary Hammond from the United Kingdom, Foreign Minister Lavrov from Russia, Foreign Minister Steinmeier from Germany, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi from China. Every one of them showed an extraordinary commitment to this effort, and they have all contributed to this outcome. And it has been a real partnership, with every country weighing in, every country concerned, every country making suggestions. And I believe that their presence here tonight, their affirmation of this opportunity to try to finalize a deal over the next three months, is a critical component of credibility that should be given to this effort.
I also want to thank the EU for its facilitation of these talks. That begins with Dame Cathy Ashton, who spent many, many hours over several years helping to guide these talks. She worked all the way through last December, and her efforts were essential in getting the formal negotiations structured. Her successor, Federica Mogherini, has seized the baton and done an excellent job of filling right in and helping to move the process forward, and we thank both of them. And Federica’s deputy has just been superb. Helga Schmid, who has been the critical link between the EU and the entire P5+1 – we are very, very grateful for her stamina and her creativity and commitment.
Finally, I want to acknowledge the hard work of the Iranian delegation led by Foreign Minister Zarif and Dr. Salehi. From the beginning, they have approached these talks with great professionalism and with seriousness of purpose. They’ve been difficult – at times extremely intense; at times emotional; always challenging. Not all of our meetings were easy. In fact, many were quite difficult because the passions are there for everybody. But we have shown, I think, diligence and respect on all sides and always kept the objective, which is a peaceful resolution of this issue, in mind.
I emphasize: We still have a lot of work to do. We have agreed on the most challenging and overarching issues, but now there are a number of technical decisions that need to be made, and there are still policy decisions that have to be made. But we have the outline; we have the basic framing, if you will – the construction. And as we continue on, the United States and our P5+1 partners will exhibit the same vigilance, the same unity of purpose, the same comprehensive approach, and the same good faith among us that has brought us this far. So thank you, and I’d be happy to answer any questions.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, can you tell us which gaps you were unable to reach understanding on, and are any elements not being made public? How long will it take Iran to comply so that sanctions can be eased, and could the deal fall through over the next three months? And lastly, will the three Americans being held in Iran be released as a goodwill measure if this deal is completed? Thank you.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, yeah, of course. I mean, we have acknowledged there are some gaps. I just listed a few of them a moment ago for you. There are issues that we have to resolve. And I’m not going to go into all of them right now, but I think I listed several of them in my comments. We have to finish dealing with Fordow, in some respects, with respect to transition. That’s one of the things we’re going to be looking at and talking about. We have other considerations with respect to the sanctions themselves and the rate and timing and so forth. But I don’t think it serves any great purpose to go through all that now. In the days ahead, there will be plenty of time to focus on that with Congress and others, and we look forward to those consultations.
It’s really a matter of anywhere from probably six months to a year or so that it will take to begin to comply with all of the nuclear steps that need to be taken in order to then begin into the phasing. Those steps have to happen first. And in the meantime, the interim agreement – the JPOA, as it’s called, Joint Plan of Action – will continue to be implemented in full. And so we believe there is a full continuity in the oversight and accountability that is necessary to proceed forward.
And finally, with respect to our citizens, we, of course, have had a number of conversations; and no meeting, no date when we come together, has been without conversation about our American citizens. I’m not going to go into any details, except to say to you that that conversation is continuing. We have a very specific process in place to try to deal with it. And we call on Iran again today, now, in light of this, to release these Americans and let them get home with their families. And we’re working on that and we will continue to be very focused on it.
QUESTION: As the business correspondent for my channel, the single one question every Iranian, from ordinary Iranians to those in boardrooms of Iranian companies, have been asking me is if on July 1st we have a joint comprehensive plan of action how fast, in what sequence, and in what format will economic sanctions, more specifically banking sanctions, which have been hurting many Iranians inside and outside the country, will be removed? I do understand you said that it will depend on compliance from Iran, but if you could just give us a bit more precise idea.
And also if I can, second question is – you have been – Foreign Secretary Zarif seems to have the world record of having face time with you thanks to these negotiations. Would you say these negotiations will help in future to improve ties between Iran and United States?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, on the latter question, all I can do is hope, like I think most citizens would hope. I would assume, from what we pick up through the diaspora and otherwise with respect to Iran, there are many, many Iranians who hope that they can join the world. But I’m not going to speculate on that. I have no idea. It would depend entirely on the resolution of a lot of things as we go forward.
The one thing we do know is that if we can eliminate this question of the nuclear issue, it begins to at some point, conceivably, provide an opportunity for change. I’m not going to predict anything. But I do know that stopping having a nuclear weapon makes the world safer, and that is what President Obama and all of us have been focused on.
With respect to the negotiations, I think – what was the first part of your question? It was about -
QUESTION: It’s about sanctions.
SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, the sanctions, yes. On the sanctions, as I said, they were phased. There are a set of requirements, for instance, the dismantlement of some of the centrifuges and the dismantlement of the infrastructure that is associated with those centrifuges. Iran has a responsibility to get the breakout time to the one year. And they can do it as fast as they want, and I assume will try to do it very rapidly. But we think that just the amount of work and the things they have to do will be somewhere in the vicinity of four (inaudible) months to a year, somewhere in there. I can’t say for certain.
But when that is done and certified by the IAEA that they have lived up to that nuclear responsibility, and we make that judgment with them, at that point in time the – there would begin the phasing of the sanctions. And we have stated very clearly that that will begin with the suspension with respect to the economic and financial sanctions at that point in time.
So there will be – I mean, this is part of the nature of any negotiation. In exchange for the restraints and restrictions that Iran is putting in place here, we will, indeed, take the very tool that was calculated to bring people to negotiate, once it has succeeded in achieving the goal, we will begin to phase those out. And that timing on other parts of that obviously remains still to be negotiated. But on the finance and the banking component, the economic components, those the President has committed to move on when that first phase is complete, and we move on to the next phase of implementation.
QUESTION: Sir, you just said they’re not merely technical issues that remain to be threshed out, but still some policy decisions that need to be made. What are the most important policy issues that need to be confronted before there can be an agreement at the end of June? And also, nothing here has been said on how Iran’s large stock of uranium is to be disposed of, either by shipping it out of the country or dealing with it inside the country. How will that be done?
And lastly, on sanctions, Minister Zarif said the Security Council resolutions will be suspended or eliminated, but can you tell us some more how that will work, especially since they could take years for Iran to address the IAEA’s concerns over PMD? And have you assured the Iranians that the White House will be able to persuade the Congress to revoke the sanctions it has imposed if Iran keeps its commitments?
SECRETARY KERRY: The question of the sanctions, Michael, remains one of the issues of the timing – the exact timing and the exact process associated with it remains one of those issues that is going to be negotiated over the course of the next three months. The commitment is to lift the economic and financial sanctions on the occasion of what I mentioned earlier on the nuclear side. Beyond that, UN sanctions, others with respect to ballistic missile embargo, et cetera, those remain for negotiation.
With respect to the question of the IAEA process, et cetera, and what happens with respect to the stockpile, it has to either be diluted or sold on the international market, one of the two. So whatever excess there is with respect to that will actually be returned right into uranium and not serve any fundamental purpose. But the stockpile is going to have to be diluted or sold in the international marketplace, and that is agreed upon at this point in time.
So thank you all very, very much.