Speaking to US television at the end of three days of nuclear talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has given a mixed message about the possibility of a comprehensive deal:
We believe that we are very close, very close. [Or] we could be very far.
We are very close, if the political decision can be made to get to yes, as President Obama said. But that political decision needs to be made by everybody, not just by one country. And everybody should avoid imposing undue pressure in order to prevent…a political decision to be made by all, to reach an agreement.
Full 55-minute Zarif interview with NBC News:
Zarif would not divulge details of the latest discussions, saying, “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. This is a puzzle. And all pieces of this puzzle should come together in order for us to have a picture of what lies ahead.”
Instead, he concentrated on pushing back Tuesday’s speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the US Congress:
It seems that there is a lot of pressure — particularly within the United States, from various courses, and we’ve seen some recently — not to have an agreement. And there are those who simply see their hopes and their political future in conflict, tension, and crisis. And as long as that is the case, it’s a very difficult environment to make political decisions.
A senior US official accompanying Kerry echoed Zarif’s statement of “very close” and “very far”:
We have made some progress but have a lot of challenges yet ahead. The bottom line here is that [there is] no deal to announce to anybody…but very intense, hard work, some progress, but tough challenges yet to be resolved.
The official said, as Kerry went to Saudi Arabia to brief King Salman and other high-level representatives of Gulf States, that the next US-Iran talks are likely to be on March 15, probably in Geneva. The European Union’s foreign policy chiefs will also be present.