As the June 30 deadline for an Iran nuclear deal approaches, the obstacles to obtaining a final agreement are becoming more clear.
By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News and AP
The top US and Iranian diplomats plan to meet this weekend in Switzerland as efforts intensify to reach a comprehensive nuclear accord in time for the June 30th deadline.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will hold talks on Saturday in Geneva.
State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke said Wednesday that the goal is to make progress toward an agreement by the end-of-June deadline. “We’re not contemplating an extension beyond June 30th. Again, we’re united among the P5+1 that our efforts are to reach a final deal by the end of June,” he said during the daily press briefing.
European and Iranian officials have suggested the talks may require more time, but Rathke rejected that notion. The State Department said Wednesday that its leading negotiator, Undersecretary Wendy Sherman, who is a key player in formulating the deal, will leave when the negotiations with Iran are finished. Kerry called Sherman a “critical” member of his team, hailing her “tenacity and skill.”
However, Western ambassadors are quoted by Reuters as saying on Tuesday that a deal is not likely to be achieved by June 30 because technical details will remain too defined and Iran will not get sanctions relief before the end of the year even in the best scenario.
“It’s very likely that we won’t have an agreement before the end of June or even [immediately] after,” French ambassador to Washington Gerard Araud said, according to Reuters, adding that he expects some melodrama to occur as the deadline nears, with late nights and doors slamming as both sides jockey for a deal.
“Even if we get the best deal…afterwards, you will have to translate it into the technical annexes, so…we could have a sort of fuzzy end to the negotiation,” he said.
France: No thorough inspections, no deal
In the meantime, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday that France will oppose a nuclear deal with Iran if it does not permit inspections of military sites, the Lebanese Daily Star reports. An agreement “will not be accepted by France if it is not clear that verifications can be made at all Iranian facilities, including military sites,” Fabius told the French parliament.
Iranian officials have repeatedly rejected the idea that their military sites, which are suspected to host part of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, will be open to international inspection. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei repeated last Wednesday that Iran will not allow any inspections of its military facilities.
Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, stated earlier in May that “Iranian military officials are not allowed to let the foreigners go through the country’s security-defense shield and fence. Iran’s military officials are not at all allowed to stop the country’s defense development and progress on the pretext of supervision and inspection, and the country’s defense development and capabilities should not be harmed in the talks.”
Iran’s refusal to allow access to its suspected nuclear sites could lead to a crisis if the agency tries for access once a deal is struck and Iran turns it down. David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security says that Iran’s non-compliance may prove to be a deal breaker.