Kerry and Zarif at Vienna nuclear talks, Nov. 23.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Reaching a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program will require the swift end of all sanctions against the country, Tehran’s diplomats said on Monday ahead of an intensive round of negotiations with world powers on the matter in Switzerland.
“If they want an agreement, sanctions must go,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said. “We believe all sanctions must be lifted.”
Zarif’s comments suggest a deal is not quite imminent, although the P5+1 global powers – comprised of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany – have already presented Iran with a proposal that would limit the program for a finite period, allowing Tehran to retain a peaceful nuclear power program and a substantial amount of its nuclear infrastructure.
“You can’t bomb knowledge into oblivion unless you kill everybody,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said, also speaking to reporters from Geneva ahead of a summit with Zarif in the lakeside town of Montreux. “You can’t bomb it away.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has begun airing his criticisms of the proposal in public, starting with a 20-minute speech in Washington to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday in preview of a highly anticipated speech to a joint session of Congress set for Tuesday.
Netanyahu said he opposes allowing Iran to retain infrastructure for nuclear work unnecessary for the production of peaceful energy.
The premier is also staunchly opposed to any sunset clause in the deal that would ultimately, upon its end, normalize Iran as a member of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Negotiators have not publicly discussed how a deal would address research and development in the nuclear program.
The Obama administration fears Netanyahu will reveal previously undisclosed provisions of the deal in his speech to Congress, as suggested by some Israeli officials over the weekend.
“We are concerned by reports that suggest selective details of the ongoing negotiations will be discussed publicly in the coming days,” Kerry said. “Doing so would make it more difficult to reach the goal that Israel and others say they share in order to get to a good deal.
“Israel’s security is absolutely at the forefront of all of our minds,” he continued, “but frankly, so is the security of all of the other countries in the region. So is our security.”
Kerry said that the negotiations still have a “long way to go,” noting that the “clock is ticking” for Iran to prove its will.
“We’re going to find out whether or not Iran is willing to make the hard choices that are necessary,” he said.
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