Press Availability by Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris, France (Excerpts)

November 5, 2014

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

SECRETARY KERRY: Well good evening, and thank you for being here. It’s a pleasure for me to be back in Paris on my way to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Beijing. And in the meantime, I was able to have a number of important and constructive meetings here today, particularly with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of France and also with Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh of Jordan.

[...]

So Foreign Minister Fabius and I also spent a good deal of time discussing the EU-coordinated P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran. The United States and France remain in lockstep with our international partners on the importance of making certain that Iran does not have a pathway to a nuclear weapon. This is the policy of the international community, of everybody, and of the United Nations as expressed through a number of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

With the November 24th deadline rapidly approaching, I will travel to Oman later this week to meet with Foreign Minister Zarif and Cathy Ashton. A unified P5+1 has put on the table creative ideas to be able to achieve our objective, and now we will see if Iran is able to match the public words that they are prepared to prove to the world that they have a peaceful program, to match those words with the tough and the courageous decisions that need to be made by all of us. The time is now to make those decisions.

[...]

QUESTION: Clearly, the Iran nuclear talks were front and center for you today. Can the negotiations go past the November 24th deadline, and what is the likelihood of that happening? Additionally, is there a new urgency to reach an agreement before the new Republican majority in the Senate takes over? And then finally, also, how do you see last night’s election results impacting U.S. foreign policy and America’s standing with the rest of the world?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you. On the issue of the Iran nuclear talks, we are gearing up and targeting November 24th. We’re not talking about or thinking about going beyond that date. That’s a critical date. And we believe it is imperative for a lot of different reasons to get this done. Most people don’t understand why, if you’re simply trying to show that a program is peaceful, it would take so long. People want to know that the transparency and accountability necessary to get this done is on the table, and we ought to be able to reach agreement. So our press is to try to get this done. And I think that it gets more complicated if you can’t. It’s not impossible if you’re not able to, but I think let’s see what happens when we bear down as we are.

An enormous amount of work has gone into this. For months upon months, we’ve had expert teams sitting down, working through details, looking at all of the technical information that is necessary to be able to make a judgment about what the impact of a particular decision is. Some of it’s very complicated, and we’ve tried to reduce it to as simple and understandable a format as possible. And it’s been very constructive. The Iranian team has worked hard and seriously. The conversations have been civil and expert.

And my hope is that now is the moment for really political decisions to be made that make a judgment that we can show the world that countries with differing views, differing systems, but with a mutual interest of trying to prove a peaceful program can in fact do that and get the job done. So we’re very hopeful about that, and I have every intent of making myself available and doing everything necessary to try to do that. And I’m confident that Foreign Minister Zarif will likewise make himself available and continue to push forward.

On the subject of the elections, let me just say that it was 10 years ago this afternoon that I conceded in a race for the presidency. And I have nothing but the greatest respect for the American political electoral process. There are winners and there are losers. Sometimes it’s your friends; sometimes it’s yourself. What you learn, if you’re in the process, is nothing but respect for the voters and for the system.

Now, I’m out of politics now. I’m in a different role, and I’m not going to comment on the – any of the political aspects of it, except to say that America will remain joined together with a strong voice with respect to our foreign policy. Our values are our values, shared by all Americans, and they are at the core of American foreign policy and of what we try hard to enforce and stand up for and advocate about around the world. That will not change. Sometimes there’s a different view or another about a particular subject, but in our process, traditionally the United States of America has been strongest when partisanship is left at the water’s edge and we stand up for America’s interests. I’m confident that is what will continue to happen over the course of these next months.

The one thing I would ask for with this election is I hope that, now that the election is over, the 60 outstanding nominees who have been the prisoner of the political process for these past – over a year now will be able to be passed very, very quickly. Thirty-nine of them are already on the Senate calendar. And some of them, I might say – I happen to have it here with me right now, no accident – well, one of them has been waiting 477 days, 473 days to be passed. Another, 466 days; another, 460 days; another, 460 – 460, 460, 418, 418, 399 – excuse me, 382. And yes, 399.

So I mean, I could run through a long list here. These are professionals. These are career people. They got kids. They need to know where they’re going to school. They need to be able to go out and do their jobs. My hope is that with this election now, in the next days when Congress comes back, I really hope that they will get affirmed very quickly in a bloc form or otherwise, because I think they deserve it, and I think our country is stronger and better served when we have the full team on the playing field.

MS. HARF: Our final question is from Lara Jakes of the Associated Press.

QUESTION: Thanks. I wanted to ask you about the Mideast peace process, but wondering if you would mind clarifying something you just said about the Iran negotiations. You said we ought to be able to reach an agreement; it gets more complicated if you can’t, but it’s not impossible. So the question was: Do you see these negotiations going past November 24th? Are you saying it’s not impossible for them to go past November 24th?

SECRETARY KERRY: What I’m saying is we have no intention at this point of talking about an extension, and we’re not contemplating an extension. If we were inches away, and most of the logical, achievable, expectable – expected issues are dealt with, but you have some details you just got to fill in, could I see a – under those circumstances, perhaps. But it would depend entirely on what’s outstanding. If big issues are hanging out there that are really fundamental and pretty simple, no, I don’t. I think that under those circumstances, something’s wrong. And so we’re going to have to see. And I think if it becomes more complicated to manage in terms of externals, if it is prolonged for reasons that are harder to explain – that’s the point I’m making.

So we have no expectation of a continuation. We’re not – I’m not contemplating it. I want to get this done. I think they do. I think the team does. And we are driving towards the finish with a view to trying to get it done.

QUESTION: But it gets more complicated with Republicans controlling the House and the Senate.

SECRETARY KERRY: No, it’s not a question – no, it has no – I don’t believe that changes either side. I honestly don’t. I believe that the same substantive issues would be there regardless of who is in control of the United States Senate. And remember, the United States Senate is still going to be subject to 60 votes to pass anything. So while it may be Republican or Democrat, it’s still subject to 60 votes. And as we have learned in the last few years, the minority has enormous power to stop things from happening, so this really is going to depend on other things. That is not what I am referring to. What is complicated is managing internal expectations in other places outside of us that may or may not have a profound impact on the longer term.

[...]