By Terry Atlas Oct 31, 2014 8:18 PM CT
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry plans to meet early next month with Iran’s foreign minister in a bid to close what he called “big gaps” that stand in the way of a deal curtailing Iran’s nuclear activities.
Kerry is scheduled to meet Nov. 9 in Muscat, the capital of Oman, for two days of talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as a Nov. 24 deadline approaches. The high-level direct negotiations between the top diplomats may help determine whether there will be an agreement.
Kerry disclosed the planned meeting during an interview with Bloomberg View columnist Al Hunt for a segment on “Charlie Rose,” the PBS program that also airs on Bloomberg Television.
Asked about the prospects, he declined to give odds for success in the negotiations between Iran and the group known as the P5+1 nations -- China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S..
“I’m hopeful, but it’s a very tough negotiation,” Kerry said. “There are still gaps that are fairly wide on a number of subjects.”
Kerry said Iran shouldn’t seek to use other issues, such as its role in the fight in Iraq against Islamic State, as leverage in the nuclear negotiations. He called the Sunni terrorist group ISIL, an acronym for its former name.
“The stakes for the world are enormous,” Kerry said in the interview. “I hope the Iranians will not get stuck in a tree of their own making, on one demand or another, in order to try to find a way together.”
Closing PathwaysAny deal has to “close off all pathways to a nuclear weapon, and we have to have enough breakout time in order to be able to guarantee the security of everybody who’s concerned about this.”
“Let me use this program to deliver a very clear message to the Iranians -- which is that this is not a political decision for us,” Kerry said. “This is a substantive decision based on the proof of a peaceful program. It’s not hard to prove your program is peaceful, if that’s what you want to do. So outside leverage -- Syria, ISIL, whatever -- is not relevant to this. It’s not affecting us one way or the other. We have one set of criteria in our mind.”
Kerry said a final deal needs to curtail four potential pathways to nuclear weapons by Iran. Those are the uranium-enrichment facility at Fordo and the one at Natanz, a plutonium heavy water reactor under construction at Arak, and whatever covert facilities Iran may have, he said.
Preventing ‘Break-Out’Kerry put the burden on Iran to agree to the measures the U.S. and other powers consider necessary to assure that its nuclear program will be used only for non-military purposes.
The world powers want a deal that curtails Iran’s nuclear activities and imposes strict transparency and verification procedures that would give a least a year’s warning if the Islamic Republic sought to “break out” to produce a nuclear weapon, officials have said. Iran says its nuclear program is solely for civilian purposes.
“We’re looking to the Iranians to be as responsible as they have said they will be and as forthcoming as they have promised, which is to be transparent and allow the proof of this peaceful program,” Kerry said.
The meeting in Oman will include European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has led the negotiations between world powers and Iran, according to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who issued a statement after Kerry’s discussed his travel plans.
U.S. TeamKerry will be accompanied by former deputy secretary of state William Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, Senior Adviser Jake Sullivan and the U.S. negotiating team, according to Psaki.
The final stage of the negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran will occur in Vienna starting Nov. 18, the European Union said today.
On other matters, Kerry said U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria are proving effective against Islamic State extremists. He said there’s “no question in my mind” that the group’s momentum has been stopped.
Kerry also said Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to do more to show he will accept Ukraine’s government, including rejecting the Nov. 2 election planned by Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Excerpts of the interview will air on “Charlie Rose This Week” on PBS tonight. The full interview airs on “Charlie Rose” later that night and will also be rebroadcast on Bloomberg Television.
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