Kerry: World ‘closer than ever’ to Iran nuclear deal

US Secretary of State John Kerry believes the world is moving towards a final nuclear deal with Iran, although much work still needs to be done.

By: AP and Aryeh Savir, World Israel News

The world’s nuclear powers convened at United Nations headquarters in New York on Monday to discuss an international treaty for global nuclear disarmament. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the world “is closer than ever” to reaching a deal with Iran regarding its nuclear program, while Israel warns that such an agreement would advance the Islamic Republic’s nuclear weapons development.

John Kerry

US Secretary Kerry addresses NPT conference at the UN. (AP/Richard Drew)

“We are, in fact, closer than ever to the good, comprehensive deal that we have been seeking, and if we can get there, the entire world will be safer,” Kerry said, although he did concede that the work is far from over, with key issues unresolved.  A finalized and implemented deal would “give the international community the confidence that it needs to know that Iran’s nuclear program is indeed exclusively peaceful,” he opined.

Kerry made the statement after meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the international convention. It was their first meeting since the P5+1 powers and Iran sealed a framework agreement on April 2 that would limit Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon. They face a deadline of June 30 for a comprehensive accord.

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Following the meeting, Zarif said that he received assurances from Kerry that the Obama administration remains committed to working towards a nuclear deal with Iran and that both sides agreed to continue drafting details of a final agreement.

Among the “unresolved” key points is the lifting of all sanctions once a final deal is reached. The Obama administration says that sanctions could be phased out in tandem with Iran’s compliance with the deal. However, the Iranian government stresses that all sanctions must be lifted immediately after a final deal comes into affect.

US President Barack Obama did not rule out the lifting all sanctions, saying earlier this month that it “will require some creative negotiations.”

Israel Attending Disarmament Talks for First Time in Decades

Over the next few weeks, several of the world’s nuclear powers will discuss progress on a landmark international treaty on nuclear disarmament, with Israel attending for the first time in two decades as an observer.

Ban Ki-moon

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. (AP/Karim Kadim)

Diplomats stressed that the ongoing Iran discussions are separate from the Nuclear Non proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference.

The NPT conference is tasked with setting a path toward the elimination of the estimated 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world.

Immediate concerns at the conference include a lack of progress in disarmament by the US and Russia, who hold more than 90 percent of those weapons. Civil society groups say nuclear powers are spending billions of dollars to upgrade and modernize their arsenals, rather than to downscale them. The US claims it is “maintaining and servicing.”

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Few breakthroughs are expected at the conference as diplomats warn of Cold War-style tensions over Ukraine and other issues. “I know as well as anyone that we have a long way to go” on the path to a nuclear-free world, Kerry said, acknowledging that “we know that we can cut back even further.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set the tone Monday by urging real progress toward the elimination of nuclear weapons, saying that otherwise, the action plan that the conference had agreed on during its last meeting five years ago “could risk fading in relevance.”

“I am deeply concerned that over the last five years this process seems to have stalled,” Ban stated. He called on world leaders to “abandon short-sighted political posturing.”

Another Pressing Issue: North Korea

Both Ban and the head of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, as well as Japan and South Korea, expressed concern on another pressing issue at the conference: North Korea’s nuclear program and the lack of talks to address it.

Kerry called North Korea “the most glaring example” of ignoring global obligations toward disarmament, adding that the US continues to work to set the stage for talks — but only if Pyongyang shows “it’s serious.”