Secretary Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a Joint Press Availability (Excerpts)

April 14, 2021

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

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MODERATOR:  Will Mauldin from The Wall Street Journal.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  For the secretary general, what proportion, if any, of your organization’s members expressed some concerns about a U.S.-led withdrawal and what it would mean for Afghanistan, either as a possible location for terrorist elements or for the stability of the Afghan Government and civil and women’s rights there?

And if I may, for Secretary Blinken, what is your response to Iran’s claim that it will move to 60 percent uranium enrichment, and is that an expected or an appropriate response to the attack on the Natanz that Tehran has blamed on Israel?

And then for Secretary Austin, a question about Russia’s military buildup that’s worrying so much of Europe today:  What response do the U.S. and its partners have to impose costs on Moscow if it interferes further in Ukraine other than the kind of targeted sanctions we’ve seen since 2014, and were those responses discussed this week with NATO and other partners?  Thank you.


SECRETARY BLINKEN:  With regard to Iran, we take very seriously its provocative announcement of an intent to begin enriching uranium at 60 percent, and the P5+1 should be unified and united in rejecting that.  I have to tell you the step calls into question Iran’s seriousness with regard to the nuclear talks, just as it underscores the imperative of returning to mutual compliance with the JCPOA.

The United States and Iran have both stated a common objective of returning to mutual compliance with the JCPOA.  We’ve been engaged constructively in a diplomatic process to achieve that goal.  In Vienna last week, we explored concrete approaches that we could take, the steps that Iran and the United States would take to return to compliance.  And I think the United States demonstrated very clearly to the other participants in this effort and to the world our seriousness of purpose.  It remains to be seen whether Iran has that same seriousness of purpose.

But the goal – returning to compliance with the JCPOA – and the diplomatic process, which is resuming in Vienna this week – that remains the best way to limit Iran’s nuclear program in a lasting way, to verifiably ensure that Iran cannot produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon on short notice.  And we’re committed to pursuing that process, but the real question is whether Iran is, and we’ll find out.