At Swiss palace, intrigue and press questions as Iran deal nears

The media consensus appears to be that a deal is indeed in the offing.

March 30, 2015 02:11
2 minute read.

Two reporters sit on a patio while covering Iran nuclear program talks at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne March 28. (photo credit: REUTERS)

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Hundreds of journalists are in the Swiss city of Lausanne declaring an historic moment at hand.

Some have better access than others, but none truly know what lies ahead as negotiations over Iran's nuclear program reach their endgame on Tuesday, March 31, or possibly Wednesday, April Fool's Day.

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Each nation represented here at the Beau Rivage Palace, on the shores of Lake Geneva, brings along its traveling press corps. Others report from the hotel bar downstairs, a creperie nearby or the international headquarters for the Olympic Games next door, which has been designated the official press center for the week.

Cameras demand visuals, so every moment counts as US Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz or any of their foreign counterparts stroll outside for fresh air and a photo opportunity.

Inside the Art Nouveau palace itself, journalists mingle amongst themselves, with technical experts and occasionally with political negotiators, hoping to catch foreign ministers as they scurry between rooms and diligently time-stamped meetings.

The design and construction of the palace, built in two stages and divided by a dome-roofed restaurant, provides security personnel with the convenient ability to block off areas strictly reserved for diplomats.

And while journalists have grown in number since the delegations of France, Germany and China arrived, space for journalists to work and operate has shrunk.

That has aggravated some members of the press here. But it also provides some with a unique opportunity. Iranian and Israeli press— this journalist included— share stories, understandings and tidbits of information, as do the Russians and the Americans, the British and the Chinese.

The risk of these exchanges is groupthink, as journalists cope with mounting pressures to stay on top of each and every statement made available to the press.

"Talks ongoing, gaps remain" has become a common, if laughable, refrain from officials here, and the American press corps questions whether to even quote them anymore. Even substantive leaks, including stiff rhetoric from the French, are considered an effort at strategic communications— public spin designed to increase leverage inside the negotiating rooms.

Delegates seem confident that an agreement will be announced by Wednesday. One US official here says negotiators will use all the time they have, up until the wire, but that US President Barack Obama has made clear he wants an understanding by the end of the month.

And overall, the media consensus appears to be that a deal is indeed in the offing. The question on everyone's lips is whether that deal will take the form of a written document and, if so, how many pages they'll show to the world.

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