UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Hello, everyone, and thank you for your patience. Welcome to beautiful historic Vienna, which for me looks like the inside of a meeting room. My plan is to outline briefly what we have been doing and accomplished over the past few days and talk about our plans going forward. I’m very delighted to have Ambassador Anderson here with me, who is special advisor to the Secretary of State and to me in this nuclear negotiation.
So we are at a very crucial moment in these negotiations. Our conversations this week have been very tough but constructive. We reviewed every element that we believe should be included in a comprehensive plan of action and had very intensive sessions focused on the very hard work of drafting text. Indeed, today we all leave – except for the Americans which – who can’t leave till tomorrow – for a brief visit home with text, heavily bracketed, to begin our next round of equally tough but necessary negotiations.
As we have said many times before, our goal remains to reach a comprehensive agreement that ensures Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon and that its program’s entirely peaceful. The United States and the rest of the P5+1 or the E3/EU+3, whichever you choose, all under the coordination of the European Union’s High Representative Cathy Ashton, remain committed to a joint comprehensive plan of action that achieves this objective. Our days this week have been very long and our discussions, as I said, intense. Whether as the P5+1, bilaterally, or trilaterally with the EU, we have met with Iranian representatives several times. And that is in addition to a number of side meetings with our P5+1 partners to reaffirm our full unity of purpose and positions. Concurrently, our experts have been actively engaged in meetings with their counterparts in an effort to address technical issues. And as you know, whenever we meet bilaterally, which we have done several times this round, we always ensure a discussion about Robert Levinson, Saeed Abedini, and Amir Hekmati and our efforts to bring them home to their families.
On the nuclear negotiation, as on the effort to bring our American citizens home, we have a great deal more to do. On the nuclear negotiation between now and July 20th, we will be working virtually around the clock to achieve the plan we seek. We feel, understandably, a sense of urgency. I and others will be returning home briefly for consultations in our capitals. Next Thursday, the political directors and experts will meet with High Representative Ashton in Brussels for coordination. We often do our coordination on the first day of a round, but we believe that we need to use the round starting on July 2nd in meetings with Iran, and so we will meet next week in Europe for coordination.
On July 2nd, we will be back in Vienna to begin the next round of negotiations. I expect that the pace and intensity of our meetings will somehow manage to increase, though I can’t quite imagine after this week how that will be, but they will. As we look ahead at what we need to do, we will want to employ every available asset in the United States Government to get this done right, if it can be done. That includes having my extremely esteemed colleagues, Deputy Secretary Bill Burns and Jake Sullivan, rejoin the negotiations if and when it would be helpful to advance the process.
What is still unclear is whether Iran is really ready and willing to take all of the steps necessary to assure the world that its nuclear program is and will remain exclusively peaceful. As we’ve noted before, Iran’s leaders have insisted from the outset that they don’t want and have never intended to develop a nuclear weapon. If that is indeed the case, then a good agreement is obtainable. It is critical that we give this process every chance to succeed in exchange for taking verifiable steps that will provide assurance that their program is exclusively peaceful, Iran would be able to achieve comprehensive sanctions release over time.
We have an opportunity for a more peaceful and secure direction. We are, as we should be, committed to a full exploration of that possibility in the hopes of achieving a successful outcome.