FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
03/21/2015 09:23 AM EDT
Remarks to the Press
Secretary of State
March 21, 2015
Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much for your patience. I know this has been a long few days, and we really are appreciative of everybody’s willingness to wait for long hours for small amounts of information. And we appreciate enormously your being here.
I want to first of all just thank Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC and himself an Olympic fencing champion from Montreal for the very special tour that I was able to have here of the Olympic Museum, which obviously means a lot to those of us from Boston because we’ve had a long history of Massachusetts athletes being involved in the Olympics and great memories, of course, of Lake Placid in 1980 and other times. So it’s very special for me to have a chance to sort of review the history of my television watching and my passion for the Olympics. And we appreciate their hospitality, of course, for hosting all of you and making this the headquarters – the international headquarters for the press during the course of these negotiations.
I also want to thank particularly the Swiss Government. I’d like to thank Didier Burkhalter for his personal generous welcome to me each time that we’ve come here, and I’m very grateful for the enormous effort of the municipalities Geneva, Montreux, Lausanne. They’ve become a very special part of this negotiating process, and we thank the citizens who have put up with any disruptions of our presence and we’re grateful for their hospitality. They’ve been enormously generous. And of course, Switzerland itself is known for its deep dedication to the resolution of complicated global issues, and they’re always contributing.
Also, I want to thank my colleagues – Energy Secretary Moniz, who has spent more time here than he thought he was going to, and I particularly thank Under Secretary Wendy Sherman and an extraordinary team of international diplomats and expert teams, all the members of the teams of the P5+1, all of the political directors who have been here in daily meetings, briefings, consultations. All of this has been going on tirelessly for many months on these negotiations. And I want to acknowledge the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, and the rest of the Iranian team for approaching these talks with seriousness of purpose and the willingness to commit very long hours to work through what are very complicated issues.
I am returning home today to Washington, stopping in London to coordinate with our European counterparts from the P5+1 – specifically the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, and the high representative of the European Union. I spoke by telephone yesterday with Foreign Minister Lavrov of Russia and with Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China.
And I want to emphasize from the beginning –and I’ve said this in every public statement I’ve ever made – this is and remains a P5+1 negotiation with Iran, and I emphasize we are united in our goal, our approach, our resolve, and our determination to ensure that Iran’s program is entirely peaceful. The European Union has continued to play a pivotal role in facilitating the talks. And I thank EU High Representative Mogherini and her Deputy Helga Schmid, who was here with us in Lausanne participating in our meetings.
Over the past few days, I’ve had lengthy negotiations with the Iranian team about the steps that Iran must take to demonstrate that its nuclear program now and ongoing in the future is exclusively for peaceful purposes. Over the past months, the P5+1 have made substantial progress towards that fundamental goal, though important gaps remain. In London, we will share ideas this evening about how to resolve the remaining sticking points, as I did yesterday on the telephone with Foreign Minister Lavrov and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. We will coordinate our strategy, as we have, as we approach the end of the March deadline, to reach an understanding on the major issues. And those of us meeting tonight will then return to our respective capitals for consultations before coming back to Lausanne next week to determine whether or not an agreement is possible.
I want to emphasize: In my conversations with Foreign Minister Zarif, and indeed over the last 16 months since the Joint Plan of Action took effect, we have made genuine progress. We have all kept the commitments that we made in the Joint Plan, and we have all lived up to our obligations. We have worked long and hard to achieve a comprehensive agreement that resolves international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. The stakes are high and the issues are complicated, highly technical, and all interrelated.
Once again, let me also be clear we don’t want just any deal. If we had, we could have announced something a long time ago. And clearly, since the Joint Plan of Action was agreed, we are not rushing. This has been a two and a half year or more process. But we recognize that fundamental decisions have to be made now, and they don’t get any easier as time goes by. It is time to make hard decisions. We want the right deal that would make the world, including the United States and our closest allies and partners, safer and more secure, and that is our test. President Obama has been clear that the best way to achieve that security, that safety, is through a comprehensive and durable agreement that all parties are committed to upholding, and whose implementation is not based on trust, but it is based on intensive verification, on the ability to know and understand what is happening.
So in the days ahead, we will stay at this. We will continue to exercise the judgment and the patience to defend our interests, to uphold our core principles, and maintain our sense of urgency. We have not yet reached the finish line. But make no mistake, we have the opportunity to try to get this right. It’s a matter of political will and tough decision making. It’s a matter of choices, and we must all choose wisely in the days ahead.
Thank you, and we’ll see you next week.