Finally, Foreign Secretary Hammond and I discussed the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran. Our governments remain in lockstep with our international partners on the importance of cutting off Iran’s pathways to the potential of a nuclear weapon. And will travel to Geneva tomorrow to meet with Foreign Minister Zarif to see if we can make progress in these talks. A unified P5+1 has put on the table creative ideas to achieve our objective, and now we will find out whether or not Iran is able to match its words about its willingness to show that its program is fully peaceful with the verifiable actions and verifiable decisions that are necessary to accomplish that goal.
QUESTION: Yes, we’re on Iran. Will the U.S. and Iran actually achieve a political framework for a deal by March 31st? How urgent in your estimation is the sentiment on both sides to achieve this deal? Does the fact that the U.S. Energy Secretary Dr. Moniz and his Iranian counterpart, Dr. Salehi, to discuss the technical issues mean that the really tough stuff is getting worked out and that everyone is getting very close to this deal?
And then we have to look at the prospect of what you and the President have said in the past: “No deal is better than a bad deal.” If there is no deal by March 31st, is the U.S. willing to walk away from the table, leave behind the efforts of the JPOA, and essentially reestablish the status quo regarding Iran’s nuclear program?
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, regarding the Iranian talks, the presence of Secretary Ernie Moniz is a reflection of the fact that these talks are very technical, and because we are pushing to try to come to agreement on some very difficult issues, it was deemed necessary and appropriate to be able to have our technical people be able to sit with their technical people at the highest level in order to try to resolve any differences that may exist.
I would not read into it any indication whatsoever that something is about to be decided as a result of that. There are still significant gaps. There is still a distance to travel. And with respect to the end date that you asked about, President Obama has no inclination whatsoever to extend these talks beyond the period that has been set out with a feeling that it is imperative to be able to come to a fundamental political outline and agreement within the time span that we have left. And if that can’t be done, that it would be an indication that fundamental choices are not being made that are essential to doing that.
So our target remains, as the President has said, towards the end of March, and I am absolutely confident that President Obama is fully prepared to stop these talks if he feels that they’re not being met with the kind of productive decision making necessary to prove that a program is, in fact, peaceful.