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European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (3rd L) delivers a statement during a ceremony next to British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (L-R) at the United Nations in Geneva November 24, 2013. Iran and six world powers reached a breakthrough agreement early on Sunday to curb Tehran's nuclear programme in exchange for limited sanctions relief, in a first step towards resolving a dangerous decade-old standoff. (Reuters/Denis Balibouse)
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (2nd R) hugs French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius after a ceremony at the United Nations in Geneva November 24, 2013. Iran and six world powers reached a breakthrough agreement early on Sunday to curb Tehran's nuclear programme in exchange for limited sanctions relief, in a first step towards resolving a dangerous decade-old standoff. (Reuters/Denis Balibouse)
Today, the United States -- together with our close allies and partners -- took an important first step toward a comprehensive solution that addresses our concerns with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program.
Since I took office, I’ve made clear my determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. As I’ve said many times, my strong preference is to resolve this issue peacefully, and we’ve extended the hand of diplomacy. Yet for many years, Iran has been unwilling to meet its obligations to the international community. So my administration worked with Congress, the United Nations Security Council and countries around the world to impose unprecedented sanctions on the Iranian government.
These sanctions have had a substantial impact on the Iranian economy, and with the election of a new Iranian President earlier this year, an opening for diplomacy emerged. I spoke personally with President Rouhani of Iran earlier this fall. Secretary Kerry has met multiple times with Iran’s Foreign Minister. And we have pursued intensive diplomacy -- bilaterally with the Iranians, and together with our P5-plus-1 partners -- the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, as well as the European Union.
Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure -- a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.
While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal. For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back. Iran has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment and neutralizing part of its stockpiles. Iran cannot use its next-generation centrifuges, which are used for enriching uranium. Iran cannot install or start up new centrifuges, and its production of centrifuges will be limited. Iran will halt work at its plutonium reactor. And new inspections will provide extensive access to Iran’s nuclear facilities and allow the international community to verify whether Iran is keeping its commitments.
These are substantial limitations which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Simply put, they cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb. Meanwhile, this first step will create time and space over the next six months for more negotiations to fully address our comprehensive concerns about the Iranian program. And because of this agreement, Iran cannot use negotiations as cover to advance its program.
On our side, the United States and our friends and allies have agreed to provide Iran with modest relief, while continuing to apply our toughest sanctions. We will refrain from imposing new sanctions, and we will allow the Iranian government access to a portion of the revenue that they have been denied through sanctions. But the broader architecture of sanctions will remain in place and we will continue to enforce them vigorously. And if Iran does not fully meet its commitments during this six-month phase, we will turn off the relief and ratchet up the pressure.
Over the next six months, we will work to negotiate a comprehensive solution. We approach these negotiations with a basic understanding: Iran, like any nation, should be able to access peaceful nuclear energy. But because of its record of violating its obligations, Iran must accept strict limitations on its nuclear program that make it impossible to develop a nuclear weapon.
In these negotiations, nothing will be agreed to unless everything is agreed to. The burden is on Iran to prove to the world that its nuclear program will be exclusively for peaceful purposes.
If Iran seizes this opportunity, the Iranian people will benefit from rejoining the international community, and we can begin to chip away at the mistrust between our two nations. This would provide Iran with a dignified path to forge a new beginning with the wider world based on mutual respect. If, on the other hand, Iran refuses, it will face growing pressure and isolation.
Over the last few years, Congress has been a key partner in imposing sanctions on the Iranian government, and that bipartisan effort made possible the progress that was achieved today. Going forward, we will continue to work closely with Congress. However, now is not the time to move forward on new sanctions -– because doing so would derail this promising first step, alienate us from our allies and risk unraveling the coalition that enabled our sanctions to be enforced in the first place.
That international unity is on display today. The world is united in support of our determination to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Iran must know that security and prosperity will never come through the pursuit of nuclear weapons -- it must be reached through fully verifiable agreements that make Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons impossible.
As we go forward, the resolve of the United States will remain firm, as will our commitments to our friends and allies –- particularly Israel and our Gulf partners, who have good reason to be skeptical about Iran’s intentions.
Ultimately, only diplomacy can bring about a durable solution to the challenge posed by Iran’s nuclear program. As President and Commander-in-Chief, I will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. But I have a profound responsibility to try to resolve our differences peacefully, rather than rush towards conflict. Today, we have a real opportunity to achieve a comprehensive, peaceful settlement, and I believe we must test it.
The first step that we’ve taken today marks the most significant and tangible progress that we’ve made with Iran since I took office. And now we must use the months ahead to pursue a lasting and comprehensive settlement that would resolve an issue that has threatened our security -- and the security of our allies -- for decades. It won’t be easy, and huge challenges remain ahead. But through strong and principled diplomacy, the United States of America will do our part on behalf of a world of greater peace, security, and cooperation among nations.
Thank you very much.
US Secretary of State John Kerry says that if Iran's nuclear program is truly just for peaceful purposes, then it simply needs to "prove it" to the world.
Kerry spoke in Geneva after a marathon negotiating session — lasting about 18 hours — that culminated with a first-step deal between Iran and six world powers, including the U.S. The deal is designed to curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions that have crippled its economy.
Speaking to reporters early Sunday, Kerry also insisted that the first-step deal will make Israel, a key US ally and archenemy of Iran, safer.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has loudly criticized the deal, saying the international community is giving up too much to Iran.
The EU High Representative and the Foreign Minister of Iran, together with the Foreign Ministersand Political Directors of the E3+3 (China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the UnitedKingdom and the United States), met from 20 – 24 November 2013 in Geneva.After intensive negotiations, we reached agreement today on a joint plan of action which sets out anapproach towards reaching a long-term comprehensive solution. We agreed that the process leading tothis comprehensive solution will include a first-step on initial reciprocal measures to be taken for allof us for a duration of six months.We also share a strong commitment to negotiate a final, comprehensive solution.The adoption of the joint plan of action was possible thanks to a sense of mutual respect and adetermination to find a way forward which is beneficial for all of us.
The implementation of this first step creates the time and environment needed for a comprehensivesolution, which remains the shared goal and on which talks will begin soon. The work on theimplementation of this first step will begin shortly. We look forward to swift implementation, whichwe will jointly monitor, in close coordination with the IAEA.Today's agreement is a significant step towards developing our relationship in a more constructive way.
A senior Israeli Cabinet minister is criticizing the international deal over Iran's nuclear program.
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is responsible for monitoring Iran's nuclear program, says there is no reason for the world to be celebrating. He says the deal, reached in Geneva early Sunday, is based on "Iranian deception and self-delusion."
It was the first Israeli reaction to the deal. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to discuss the matter with his Cabinet later Sunday.
The discussions were kept hidden even from America's closest friends, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago, and that may explain how the nuclear accord appeared to come together so quickly after years of stalemate and fierce hostility between Iran and the West.
But the secrecy of the talks may also explain some of the tensions between the U.S. and France, which earlier this month balked at a proposed deal, and with Israel, which is furious about the agreement and has angrily denounced the diplomatic outreach to Tehran.
President Barack Obama personally authorized the talks as part of his effort - promised in his first inaugural address - to reach out to a country the State Department designates as the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism.
The talks were held in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman and elsewhere with only a tight circle of people in the know, the AP learned. Since March, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden's top foreign policy adviser, have met at least five times with Iranian officials.
The last four clandestine meetings, held since Iran's reform-minded President Hassan Rouhani was inaugurated in August, produced much of the agreement later formally hammered out in negotiations in Geneva among the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and Iran, said three senior administration officials. All spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss by name the highly sensitive diplomatic effort.
After feverishly trying to derail the international community's nuclear deal with Iran in recent weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now has little choice but to accept an agreement that he has derided as deeply flawed.
Netanyahu believes the six-month deal leaves Iran's military nuclear capabilities largely intact, while giving Iran relief from painful economic sanctions, undermining negotiations on the next stage. At the same time, Israel's strongest piece of leverage, the threat of a military strike on Iran, seems to be out of the question despite Netanyahu's insistence it would remain on the table.
"Today the world became a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world made a significant step in obtaining the most dangerous weapons in the world," Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday, calling the deal a "historic mistake."
He said Israel was not bound by the agreement, and reiterated Israel's right to "defend itself by itself," a veiled reference to a possible military strike against Iran.
Netanyahu has spent years warning the world against the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran, calling it an existential threat due to Iranian references to Israel's destruction, its support of hostile militant groups on Israel's borders and its development of missiles capable of reaching Israel and beyond.
Israel also believes that a nuclear-armed Iran will provide militant groups like Lebanon's Hezbollah an "umbrella" of protection that will embolden them to carry out attacks.
As momentum for a deal built the past week, Netanyahu delivered speech after speech and held meeting after meeting, urging the world to seek better terms from Iran. Last week, he hosted French President Francois Hollande, then rushed off to Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin in a last-ditch attempt to alter the agreement.
Netanyahu had said that any deal must ensure that Iran's enriching of uranium — a key step toward making a nuclear bomb — must end. He also said all enriched material should be removed from the Islamic Republic, and called for the demolition of a plutonium reactor under construction.
But after the deal was announced, it was clear that Netanyahu made little headway. While freezing parts of Iran's enrichment capabilities, it will leave others, including the centrifuges that are used for enrichment, intact. The deal relies heavily on Iranian goodwill, a still-to-be-defined system of international inspections and the continued pain of sanctions that remain in place.
The centerpiece of the agreement is the degree of Iran's uranium enrichment, which is the process of converting concentrated uranium into nuclear fuel.
Iran has pledged to keep its enrichment at no higher than 5 percent. This is well below what's needed for weapons-grade material at more than 90 percent enrichment. It would allow Iran to make fuel for its lone energy-producing reactor, a Russian-built plant in Bushehr on the Persian Gulf coast. But it would keep the levels too low for a weapon or even a fast-track effort at so-called "breakout" toward warhead strength.
Iran already has a significant stockpile of higher-enriched uranium: an estimated 185 kilograms (407 pounds) of 20 percent-enriched uranium. This is the highest level acknowledged by Tehran. The Geneva deal calls for Iran, over the next six months, to either "dilute" the material below 5 percent or have it repurposed into powder — which makes it useable as nuclear fuel but very difficult to be further boosted. In recent years, Iran has repurposed an amount of 20 percent enrichment similar to its current stockpile.
“The interim deal has been and will continue to be met with healthy skepticism and hard questions, not just of the Iranians, but of ourselves and our allies involved in the negotiations. Iran has a history of obfuscation that demands verification of its activities and places the burden on the regime to prove it is upholding its obligations in good faith while a final deal is pursued.
“The Administration and its negotiating partners claim that a final deal can be completed that affirms Iran does not have a right to enrich and permanently and irreversibly dismantles the infrastructure of its uranium and plutonium nuclear programs. That is a goal the House shares. The lingering question, however, is whether the negotiating partners will work equally hard to preserve the strong international sanctions regime until that goal is achieved. Otherwise, we will look back on the interim deal as a remarkably clever Iranian move to dismantle the international sanctions regime while maintaining its infrastructure and material to pursue a break-out nuclear capability.
“The House looks forward to the Administration providing a briefing on the interim deal and the next steps.”
An interim international deal on Iran's nuclear program could tilt the balance of power in the Middle East towards Tehran after two years of popular revolts that have weakened leading Arab nations.
Sunday's agreement opens the way for a thaw in U.S.-Iranian confrontation that has lasted almost as long as the U.S.-Soviet Cold War, alarming Israel and Gulf Arab rulers who fear a new regional hegemony deeply hostile to their interests.
The deal to curb but not scrap Iranian uranium enrichment, which the West has long believed was meant to develop a bomb, has implications far beyond weapons proliferation in a war-scarred region critical to world oil supplies.
Israeli stock prices rose to another record high on Sunday, ignoring local politicians' comments that a deal to curb Iran's nuclear program was a mistake.
Iran and six world powers clinched a deal earlier in the day to curb the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for initial sanctions relief, signaling the start of a game-changing rapprochement that could ease the risk of a wider Middle East war.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the agreement with Iran as a historic mistake that left the production of atomic weapons within Tehran's reach. Netanyahu told his cabinet his government would not be bound by the deal.
The blue-chip Tel Aviv 25 index .TA25 rose 0.5 percent to 1,352.04 points at 9:12 a.m. ET, after reaching a new intraday high of 1,355.38 earlier in the session. Last Wednesday, the TA-25 posted a new record close, surpassing an April 2011 peak. It edged higher on Thursday to a new record and its sixth straight daily gain.
We now have an international agreement with Iran that moves it further away from getting a nuclear weapon. This is an important first step, which must now be fully implemented. We will continue to enforce sanctions robustly in order to secure a comprehensive and final settlement that fully addresses the real and substantive concerns of the international community.
Today’s deal with Iran demonstrates how persistent diplomacy and tough sanctions can together help us to advance our national interest.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a steady critic of the talks, condemned the agreement as it left intact Iran's nuclear fuel-producing infrastructure. "What was achieved last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it was a historic mistake," he said.
"Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world took a significant step towards obtaining the world's most dangerous weapon," he said in public remarks to his cabinet.
He reiterated a long-standing Israeli threat of possible military action against Iran - even as a member of his security cabinet conceded that the interim accord limited this option.
Kerry sought to reassure Israel, saying Iran's bomb-making potential had been restricted and its atomic programme would be more transparent.
"I believe Israel in fact will be safer, providing we make sure that these ... sanctions don't get lifted in a way that reduces the pressure on Iran - and we don't believe they will be, there's very little sanctions relief here - that the basic architecture of the sanctions stays in place," he told CNN.
Israeli officials knew they were being kept in the dark as the U.S. conducted secret talks with Iran, and the knowledge that the White House was “going behind Israel’s back” was one of the key sources of tension between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, according to a senior Israeli minister and other Israeli officials.
“We did not know from the beginning, but we knew, we had intelligence that these meetings were happening,” said the Israeli minister, who spoke to BuzzFeed by phone from his Jerusalem office. He said that a “friend in the Gulf” shared intelligence with Israel that the meetings were taking place, and urged Israel to find out more. “I would like to say we knew the content of the talks, but we didn’t. What we knew was that the U.S. was choosing not to tell us about them and that was very worrying.”
That “friend,” one foreign ministry official said, was Saudi Arabia, which along with Israel has most strongly objected to the nuclear deal reached between Iran and the West over the weekend.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog is to play a major role in verifying the implementation of a landmark deal to curb Iran's atomic activities that negotiators for Tehran and six major powers reached in Geneva on Sunday.
With inspectors present in Iran virtually around the clock - in effect the outside world's eyes on the ground - the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be crucial in ensuring that Iran fulfils its end of the agreement.
Under the interim accord designed to pave the way for talks on a final settlement of the decade-old dispute, Iran will halt its most sensitive enrichment of uranium, stop expanding other nuclear activity and agree to more intrusive U.N. surveillance.
It remains to be seen how Iran carries out these steps: Western diplomats have often accused it in the past of stonewalling the Vienna-based IAEA to buy time for its nuclear program, especially regarding a long-stalled investigation into suspected atomic bomb research by Tehran.
President Barack Obama telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to discuss international talks on Iran's nuclear program, the White House said in a statement.
"The President provided the Prime Minister with an update on negotiations in Geneva and underscored his strong commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which is the aim of the ongoing negotiations," the White House said.
"The President and Prime Minister agreed to continue to stay in touch on this issue."
New York, 23 November 2013 - Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the nuclear programme of Iran
The Secretary-General warmly welcomes the interim agreement that has been reached in Geneva this night regarding the nuclear programme of Iran.
He congratulates the negotiators for the progress made in what could turn out to be the beginnings of a historic agreement for the peoples and nations of the Middle East region and beyond.
He urges the Governments concerned to do everything possible to build on this encouraging start, creating mutual confidence and allowing continued negotiations to extend the scope of this initial agreement. The Secretary-General reaffirms his unswerving commitment to strengthening nuclear disarmament and the non-proliferation regime.
The Secretary-General calls on all members of the international community to support this process which, if allowed to succeed, is likely to be to the long-term benefit of all parties.