On March 26, a new round of nuclear negotiations began in Lausanne, Switzerland between Iran and the world's six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States. Officials noted that the negotiations were intensifying, with only a few days remaining before the deadline for a political framework. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held bilaterial discussions, and negotiators from Britain, China, France, Russia, and Germany joined the talks over the weekend. The following are excerpted remarks from officials involved in the talks.
"Now, what happens if, as our critics propose, we just walk away from a plan that the rest of the world were to deem to be reasonable? And that could happen. Well, the talks would collapse. Iran would have the ability to go right back spinning its centrifuges and enriching to the degree they want, if they want, if that’s what they choose. And the sanctions will not hold, because those other people who deem the plan to be reasonable will walk away and say, “You do your thing, we’ll do ours. You’re not willing to be reasonable, we’re going to do what we think is reasonable.” And then you have no sanctions regime at all.
So then there would be no visible, agreed-upon checks on Iran’s nuclear program. I thought that was the whole purpose of putting the sanctions in place, was to get agreed-upon checks on the program. Now, obviously, you have to know that they are agreed; you have to know that you can enforce them; you have to know you have the insight. And that’s our job – to provide an agreement that is as good as we’ve said it will be, that will get the job done, that shuts off the four pathways to a nuclear weapon: the pathway at Fordow, the pathway at Natanz, the pathway at Arak, and finally, the covert pathway, which is the hardest of all but which I can assure you we are deeply focused on.
So this is not a choice, as some think it is, between the Iran of long ago and the Iran of today. It’s not a choice between this moment and getting them to give up their entire nuclear program, as some think. It’s not going to happen. It’s a choice between a regime that has already developed its ability to master the nuclear cycle, that has already proven its ability to enrich, that has gone from 164 centrifuges in 2003 to over 19,000 today – but is only spinning 9,400 of them, but which would have the ability to free, if we don’t have an agreement, just to expand its program full speed ahead, and you know we can’t accept that. So where does that take you?
Anybody standing up in opposition to this has an obligation to stand up and put a viable, realistic alternative on the table, and I have yet to see anybody do that. So we’ll see where we go."
—March 25, 2015, in a speech to the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference
“We are working very hard to work those through...We are working late into the night and obviously into tomorrow. We are working with a view to get something done. There is a little more light there today, but there are still some tricky issues. Everyone knows the meaning of tomorrow.”
“In terms of setting expectations, as you all know and have heard us say many times, we are focused on getting a political framework that addresses all of the major elements of a comprehensive deal done by the end of March. That is the date we are focused on. We made – I think we would say we made more progress in the last round than we had made in the previous rounds, which often happens once you’re getting closer to a deadline, I would say. And we can see a path forward here to get to an agreement. We can see what that path might look like. That doesn’t mean we’ll get there. And I think if you asked many people in the delegation, we truly do not know if we will be able to do this. But I do think it’s important that we see a path forward. We’ve discussed all of the substantive issues at the political and expert level that will need to be part of this.”
“We do not know what form this will take if we can get there at the end of March. I know that’s a big question people have. But regardless, we have always said it needs to have specifics. We will need to communicate as many specifics as possible to the public in some form or fashion. What that will look like we truly just do not know at this point yet. Obviously, we’ll be communicating that to Congress as well. But I think what folks are focused on right now is the substance of what we are trying to work towards in a political framework, and as we get closer here, I think to conversations about form for some sort of public announcement will be a part of the discussion, but we truly do not know at this point.
But I do want to underscore that we believe and know that we will have to share as many specific details publicly as we can, with the caveat that the work of doing annexes if we can get to a political framework is very tough work. It involves a lot of details that are very important to the implementation of this deal, so noting that as well.”
“If we get to March 31st and don’t have a political understanding, we will have to evaluate where we are, we will have to look at what we think the path forward is, and we will make decisions based on that going forward. But unlike the previous two extensions, the day after the deadline it does not automatically expire.”
“We very much believe we can get this done by the 31st. We see a path to do that. I don’t think we would have said that even before the last round probably. So to set expectation – not to set them too high, because I think there is a good chance that we cannot get this done. But yeah, we plan for all outcomes.”
—March 25, 2015, in a press briefing
President Hassan Rouhani
Solutions on key parameters of Iran #nuclear case reached. Drafting to start immediately, to finish by June 30th. #IranTalks
"We have made progress in reaching acceptable solutions, but we still have to work on some important issues; the key to striking an agreement lies in this strategic choice that the other side should make: pressure and sanctions or interaction and agreement by the other side.”
"I think we now have a better understanding of issues; I think we can move towards a solution through a common understanding.”
"I think our German and French friends are willing to play a very direct role in both the settlement (of the nuclear issue) and in future relations; we discussed very good points on how to proceed and resolve the problems."
"We have always said that achieving a solution is possible with political will; from my meetings with German and French foreign ministers I realized that the other side has also entered the talks with the same interest.”
"We discussed all issues which need to be resolved and I think we made progress and we are moving ahead; I think we can have the needed progress."
"The talks have reached a point where serious decisions need to be made."
He expressed hope that the "other side will be able to make this tough decision."
"One or two fundamental issues remain which we hope will be settled as well." —March 25, 2015, according to the press
Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi
“We hope to wrap up the talks by Wednesday night ... We insist on lifting of financial, oil and banking sanctions immediately ... for other sanctions we need to find a framework. We insist on keeping research and development with advanced centrifuges.”
Foreign Ministry Director General for Political and International Affairs Hamid Baeedinejad
"The remaining issues are not only the sanctions, but include a whole raft of issues and we are currently in the final stages of [settling] them."
"All these issues are interrelated. Sanctions, [uranium] enrichment and research development are issues which should be resolved together and in single package." —March 25, 2015, according to the press
One more very important day of the ministerial negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme is over. We can say with a large degree of confidence that framework agreements have been reached on all the key aspects of this issue at the ministerial level, and we hope that these agreements will be put on paper in the next few hours or a day at the most. A corresponding instruction has been issued to the experts. The agreement stipulates a comprehensive approach to settling this issue, including IAEA verification of the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme and detailed provisions on lifting the sanctions.
I’d like to say that the concept underlying this work is based on the initiative that President Vladimir Putin advanced several years ago, when he called for resolving Iran’s nuclear issue by recognising Iran’s unquestionable right to peaceful nuclear research, including uranium enrichment, provided its programme was reliably monitored by the IAEA and the anti-Iranian sanctions were lifted. Russia contributed to international efforts at the earlier stages by proposing the principle of superposition and reciprocity for the settlement of various aspects of this issue, which is one of the most difficult international issues.
These agreements must be now put on paper. I hope that when this happens, they will be made public without delay by Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Javad Zarif.
Our work is not finished yet, but the completion of this stage will mean that we have honoured the commitments we assumed in November to elaborate a political framework for addressing all the key aspects of this issue. As we agreed last November, the experts will be working on the technical details until the end of June, which will take a lot of effort because the devil is in the details, as you know. A complex issue like nuclear research calls for the utmost attention and accuracy. I believe that the result, which we hope to reach soon, looks attainable and will create the basis for resolving all the other issues pertaining to Iran’s nuclear programme.
“The endgame of the long negotiations has begun…And here, with a view of the Swiss mountains, I'm reminded that as one sees the cross on the summit, the final meters are the most difficult but also the decisive ones.”
“That's what has to be done here in the coming hours and days. I can only hope that in view of what has been achieved over the last 12 months that the attempt for a final agreement here will not be abandoned."
Reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran "could perhaps bring a bit more calm to the region.”