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Diplomacy in Action

Background Briefing on P5+1 Talks with Iran


Special Briefing
Office of the Spokesperson
Senior Administration Official
Vienna, Austria
February 17, 2014

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MODERATOR: Hello, everyone. Welcome to this first round of comprehensive negotiations. It’s good to see a lot of friendly faces. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m [Moderator]. In a moment I will turn it under – over to [Senior Administration Official]. From now on, everyone will be referred to as a Senior Administration Official. This is entirely on background, nothing on the record. Again, we’re happy to have some new faces here, and just want to make sure everyone is clear about the ground rules as well.

So with that, I will turn it over to [Senior Administration Official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, hello, everyone. And welcome back to the EU-coordinated P5+1 talks with Iran. I know many of you have been covering these talks since we started in Geneva last fall, and I know that those of you who have been to Geneva many times are very sorry for the change in venue. But when it’s gotten to the point where they know to sit – where to sit me for breakfast and room 520 has been renamed for me – (laughter) – I think it’s time for a change. And I got to spend some of last week there for the very difficult Syria talks. So I’m glad to be in Vienna.

I do know, however, that some of your colleagues – I didn’t, but – got stuck, unfortunately, in Geneva today when the airport was closed for a while. So they will catch up with us, but glad to have all of you here.

I want to talk a little bit this evening about what our goals are for this round of talks, and then I’ll be glad to take your questions. These next days this week are the beginning of what will be a complicated, difficult, and lengthy process. When the stakes are this high and the devil is truly in the details, one has to take the time required to ensure the confidence of the international community in the result. That can’t be done in a day, a week, or even a month in this situation. But our aim remains to move in a deliberate, concentrated manner to get the job done.

We don’t know if, at the end of these six months, we will be able to achieve a comprehensive agreement, though we aim to. As President Obama has said, and I quite agree, it’s probably as likely that we won’t get an agreement as it is that we will. But we have also said, and I just as firmly believe this, that these negotiations are the best chance we’ve ever had for diplomacy to resolve this most pressing national security challenge. We absolutely want to ensure that the first step is not the only step or the last step. We must build on the progress of the first step and get a final agreement, a comprehensive agreement, that addresses all of our and the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

It’s important to note that since we finalized the Joint Plan of Action in Geneva in November, we have been very – working very hard with the European Union, the rest of the P5+1, our other international partners, and indeed, with the Iranians to move this process forward in some important ways. First, we translated the JPOA, the Joint Plan of Action, into a set of technical understandings that went into effect on January 20th. Iran made some very serious commitments regarding its nuclear program, and to date they have carried out those commitments. Similarly, we made commitments to pause a limited number of sanctions, and we have kept our commitments.

And as the implementation of the first step took effect, we’ve been consulting our friends in the region, as we always do, to make sure they’re up to speed on the process and where we’re going from here, as well as making sure the international community knows what has and what hasn’t occurred.

And as you are all well aware, we’ve also been working quite closely with the United States Congress. Experts from the State and Treasury Departments have been briefing both members and staffers to make sure they have all the facts about what is in the Joint Plan of Action, what Iran has done, and what we have done in return. Part of that discussion, of course, has been to address our concerns about passing any new sanctions legislation at this point. And we think that members have been very receptive in these discussions.

Finally, our experts have already begun engaging with our EU and P5+1 counterparts to begin discussions about what the contours of a comprehensive agreement would look like. Now we are ready to sit down with Iran and begin the much more difficult task of trying to negotiate this comprehensive agreement. One topic, of course, that will be discussed in the first round is procedurally how these talks will progress – what the format will be, what the timing will be, how much will be done at the expert level, vice the political director or foreign minister level.

Substantively, as we begin to talk more about what we will need in – to be part of any comprehensive agreement, it’s worth keeping in mind a maxim we’ve been repeating for some time and which is explicitly written into the Joint Plan of Action: that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. As we dive into these discussions, it will be tempting for people to try to hone in on one or two issues or to try to figure out where the sticking points are. But as we’ve made very clear, all of the issues must be addressed to the international community’s satisfaction during these negotiations for us to get a comprehensive agreement completed. And some of these issues are well outlined in the JPOA.

As I said, we know this will be a long process. Progress will be tough, and it may slower at times than any of us wishes. There will undoubtedly be some ups and probably many downs. As we prepare to sit down tomorrow to begin these comprehensive negotiations, we are clear-eyed, focused, and determined. Now we’re going to see what we can get done.

With that, I’m happy to take your questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you. For folks who’ve walked in a little bit late, this is all on background, senior Administration officials. I’ll call the questions. I know I know most of you, but if you could please identify yourself and your media outlet, that way everyone will know who you are as well.

Lou, we’re starting with you in the back.

QUESTION: So the --

MODERATOR: Lou with Reuters. I’ll identify you for everyone.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You are now forever Lou with Reuters. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So last week it came out that Iranian oil exports have been increasing. We’ve also seen that there’s this Russian-Iranian potential oil deal. Today, the Iranians have been saying that perhaps there could be an exchange, an additional reactor created by the Russians in exchange for oil. Are these things undermining your leverage in negotiating with the Iranians? And how does this impact this process, if at all?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would say that there are always events that take place that have some impact, but in what you’ve just outlined, I don’t see any in particular. In the sense that the – there are always fluctuations in the oil markets, there are always fluctuations in the amount of oil that is being bought, even within the cap that is in the architecture of our sanctions. So this is very much anticipated, and so we look at the aggregate over time. And we’re quite satisfied with where we are.

Secondly, in terms of the oil-for-goods deal, or oil-for-a-second-Bushehr-reactor deal, I also note that that article says that it will be very complicated to put such an agreement together, and perhaps they can get it together by August. I think that we will hear a lot of people hoping to put things together, but I think you have heard from the President of the United States, from the Secretary of State, from me, from my colleagues at Treasury, that the major parts of our sanctions are in place and our underlying sanctions architecture is in place both on the oil side, on the financial and banking side, and if people try to evade our sanctions, we will find them.

MODERATOR: Yes, Steve.

QUESTION: Steve Erlanger from The New York Times. You – what did you make of Ayatollah Khamenei’s comments today that he thought all this was a great waste of time, and that he wouldn’t stop the negotiations, and if they succeeded, which he thought was impossible, that would be great, but enmity would continue, which is probably less important. But how did you interpret it? Was he preparing Iranians for a long haul, or for failure, or what do you think?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, Steve, I think you have to ask him what his intentions were. (Laughter.) But I think you know he made the statement he did today – President Obama has said that he believes this is a 50-50 proposition. So I think, probably with all of you, we don’t have to worry about high expectations.

And indeed, I think it is right to approach these negotiations with a sober frame of mind. If this were easy to do, it would have been done a very long time ago. It is extraordinary that we were able to take a first step, commitments of which are being kept by everyone. We now have to build on that so that it is not the only step and it is not the last step. But it is very complex; it is very difficult. We are all committed to working as hard as we possibly can, as fast as we can, but this is a very detailed-oriented comprehensive agreement with very difficult decisions that have to be taken by everybody. So I certainly think leadership all over the world is keeping expectations at the appropriate place – cautious, very cautious.

MODERATOR: Yes, Indira. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Where are you from?

QUESTION: Oh, sorry. Indira Lakshmanan from Bloomberg News.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask – you mentioned the congressional – that you’ve been consulting closely with Congress. And since the JPOA is supposed to expire (inaudible) concerns about pressure increasing (inaudible) or after the several weeks (inaudible) putting new sanctions bill on that, at that point, might have a veto-proof majority because we’re going into November midterms? How do you think the domestic politics will play into the pressure that will be on your administration to not (inaudible)? And my colleague Jon has a question, too.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As you would imagine, I probably won’t answer that hypothetical. But what I will say is that many people have brought up our midterm elections, and won’t that have pressure on what we do? And I would say that throughout this process, the President, the Secretary of State have made – and policymakers in U.S. Government – have made decisions they thought served the national security interest of the United States. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have worked so hard to tell the Congress, “Please do not pass new sanctions legislation now.” The politically easy thing to do would have been to say, “Okay.” But that wasn’t, in the view of the President and the Secretary and all of us, the right thing to do.

The right thing to do was to give diplomacy a chance. And that is what we are intent on doing, and that is what we are going to continue to do. We are grateful to the Congress for their leadership on putting sanctions in place. They have had an important effect on this diplomatic process. But just because something has worked in one circumstance doesn’t mean it works in the next circumstance. And we have had a great deal of conversation, and the members of Congress have come to understand that we should get this space and time to give this diplomacy a chance. And I’m very grateful for those choices.

MODERATOR: And your colleague has a question.

QUESTION: Sorry. I’m Jon Tirone with Bloomberg News, based here in Vienna. And I have a question about the joint commission. The narrative to this point has been there has been two tracks – the IAEA track which is looking at the PMD issues, and the diplomatic political track looking into the broader (inaudible) nuclear issues. Those paths seem to have come to a confluence, and I’m curious to hear how you envision the joint commission working, in as much technical detail as you can provide, including how the IAEA will be participating in – at what level, et cetera. And if you could just mention the joint commission’s role in clearing PMD issues specifically, that would be helpful.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The joint commission is not set up to clear away PMD. That is, in the first instance, the IAEA’s job. And they’re undertaking that. And in fact, the more that Iran can do to meet their obligations with the IAEA, the better for the nuclear negotiating process around a comprehensive agreement. So the two partner with each other, but they are not the same. The JPOA says that we will be of assistance where we can in resolving past and present issues, which reflects possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. But we want to do that in service to the IAEA, and we don’t want to do the job that belongs to the IAEA.

The joint commission was set up as a mechanism, when necessary, if there are compliance issues with the JPOA or questions that need to get resolved. So that’s what the joint commission is for. So if Iran was not fulfilling a commitment they made or we weren’t fulfilling a commitment we had made, there would be a place to discuss those things, even while we are negotiating the comprehensive agreement, so that any compliance issues wouldn’t come to the comprehensive negotiation, but would have another mechanism for facilitation. And it was anticipated that would happen at the expert level, and then come up to the political directors and up to foreign ministers if needed.

So far, there hasn’t been need or a purpose for the joint commission to meet. There needs to be content and substance for such a meeting. The IAEA is preparing monthly reports to let us know how things are going. We expect one of those shortly, and that – they have an – have taken on an enormous responsibility, for which we are very grateful, for the verification and monitoring mechanisms in the Joint Plan of Action. And we’re very grateful that many member states have stepped forward to provide additional budget for the IAEA so they, in fact, can do their job.

MODERATOR: Great. Thanks. Let’s go to Laura Rozen.

QUESTION: Thanks. Laura Rozen, Al-Monitor. Thanks for doing this. Can you give clarity on what is this role that the P5+1 has (inaudible) for a comprehensive (inaudible)? Or are things outside of the nuclear issue included, such as ballistic missiles? I know Congress asked you that Iran seems to reject that that would be something (inaudible) --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. I think the JPOA lists a variety of things that are part of a comprehensive agreement. Included in the first or second – I think the second paragraph of the JPOA is a reference to the UN Security Council resolutions, and those resolutions have to be resolved before a final agreement. So they’re part of that. In the UN Security Council resolutions, there is reference to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. I may not have the exact quote. I can dig it out of my pile here if you want it later. We can find it for you.

So to the extent that one has to resolve the Security Council resolutions in some way as part of the comprehensive agreement, there are many other things in the UN Security Council as well. It talks about the suspension of enrichment. So that has to be addressed in some way. So these issues have to be addressed in some way. What that means, how they’re resolved, how they’re addressed is part of the negotiation.

MODERATOR: Yes. Jay Solomon. We are digging out, though.

QUESTION: Oh, thanks. I just had a question. In the last few weeks, the gaps between the U.S. rhetoric and the Iranian rhetoric looks vast. I mean, everyone from Salehi to Rouhani say we’re not going to dismantle anything. You’re testifying, saying we want major dismantlement. Are you surprised by this rhetoric, or is this basically what you kind of thought would happen as you guys enter a negotiation and stake out your positions?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. Two things. First of all, Laura and everybody else, in Security Council Resolution 1929, operative paragraph 9: “Decides that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology, and that states shall take all necessary measures to prevent the transfer of technology or technical assistance to Iran related to such activities.” So if one is addressing all Security Council resolutions, you have to address this in some way. Again, how is part of the negotiation.

Jay, to your question about the rhetoric, we’re at the beginning of a negotiation. People stake out where they hope it goes. And then you sit down and you go to work.

MODERATOR: Yes. Yep, go ahead. Yeah. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: George Jahn, Associated Press. If there is no substantial progress, how long does the JPOA stay in effect? You can reboot after six months; you can reboot after a year. What happens after a year?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, our intent is to use these six months to negotiate a comprehensive agreement.

MODERATOR: Yes, Ali. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Ali Arouzi, NBC News. I mean, with that in mind, I know you can’t give us the details of the negotiations, but how far along down the line are you? I mean, 10 percent, 50 percent, 100 percent?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We’re beginning tomorrow, Ali.

QUESTION: But already there’ve been three rounds in Geneva, too.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: But the three rounds in Geneva --

QUESTION: With that in mind, I mean, how far along down the line do you think --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think the JPOA sets out in broad terms what needs to be addressed in a comprehensive agreement, so that’s good. So we’re not starting from ground zero. And I think one of the very important parts of the JPOA is it both dealt with a first step – things that Iran could do to, as you know, stop all 20-percent enrichment, make some changes in some of its facilities, stop the advance of their program, in ways that created space for the comprehensive negotiation. But it also sets out in broad terms what we seek to accomplish – what Iran seeks to accomplish, what we seek to accomplish in a comprehensive agreement.

And if you look at both the first two paragraphs of the JPOA and the last page, which lists what should be addressed in a comprehensive agreement, we have the beginning of a framework. We – not all of it, but the beginnings of one. We have had expert level meetings among the P5+1 and the EU in advance of today to begin to lay out all of the pieces that we think need to be addressed to make sure that we come into this and try to put – set the table. Put everything down. We don’t have any interest in having surprises. We want to be transparent about our interests, and what we hope can get achieved, and I’m sure the same will be true of Iran.

MODERATOR: Yes, Michael Adler. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Kind of a – two follow-ups. One, it sounded from your opening comments that you were gearing us up for a one-year rather than a six-month period.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Really.

QUESTION: And then you, of course, shot that down --

MODERATOR: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) question. But should we be looking towards one-year or a six-month period realistically?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I think we should be looking at the six-month framework. Quite frankly, I want to keep the pressure on ourselves to get this done. And as I said, as time goes on, it doesn’t necessarily improve the likelihood of getting to an agreement. And I think we all need to go to work. We all need to try to do this in an intense and deliberate way, and give it everything we’ve got.

MODERATOR: And you had a follow-up, right? Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, which is that before the interim agreement parts began, there was a lot of bilateral consultation between the United States and Iran. Has there been the same level of bilateral preparation for this round or not?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What we did to – in the first step, as you all know, there was a behind-the-scenes, shall we say, bilateral track that went on for some time and then was folded into the P5+1 negotiations. This time we’re not repeating that process. Everything is open and transparent in the P5+1. I would imagine that all of us, each of us, will have bilateral contacts. Since the JPOA, since Foreign Minister Zarif and Secretary Kerry met, since we had our bilateral track, things have changed. You all know that Secretary Kerry met again with Foreign Minister Zarif in Munich. You know that the President of the United States called President Rouhani. We all, when we need to solve problems, email with the Iranians. My colleagues up here who work on the sanctions tracks have to work out tremendous number of details to do the repatriation of funds, to set up the humanitarian channel, and to do so they have to email with their Iranian colleagues.

So we’re in a very different circumstance and a very different world. If we have a concern, an issue, I know who I can contact to try to sort through that. So it’s a different time. Cathy Ashton will be at the center of this, the High Representative of the European Union, and we’ll coordinate this effort and be a major interlocutor in this process; along with Helga Schmidt, her deputy; with Abbas Araqchi; and then all of the political directors who will be part of this process on a regular basis, as will our experts.

MODERATOR: Yes. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Al Pessin from Voice of America. What would you like to see the timing and pace of these talks be? And do you expect to have any substantive talks this week, and if so what do you think you ought to start on?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, I’m sure we’ll have substantive talks this week. We will try to lay out and I’m sure Iran will lay out all of the things that they want to make sure get resolved through a comprehensive agreement. We’re basically setting the table for the negotiations. And I’ll probably have more to tell you about that as the week goes on.

I think that you all probably know that Lady Ashton’s having dinner with Foreign Minister Zarif, which is her usual pattern. And then we will start with Iran in a plenary – Foreign Zarif and Lady Ashton and the political director and the Iranian delegation at about 11 tomorrow morning at the UN, which I think you’re all well aware of. Then we will be having, I’m sure, very substantive conversations at the political director level, coordinated by Helga Schmidt and Abbas Araqchi.

QUESTION: And the timing that you’d like to see and the issues you’d like to --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think we have to have a very intense and intensive process to achieve a comprehensive agreement on the timetable that we’ve been discussing here tonight, and it’s going to take a lot of hard work by an awful lot of people.

MODERATOR: Yes, this woman right behind you, and then I’ll come up to you. Sorry.

QUESTION: Yeah. It’s Hannah Haviani from Radio Free Europe’s Iran service. My question is about what we heard yesterday from one of the Iranian negotiators, Ba'idinejad, regarding the centrifuges. He was insisting that Iran is going to use its (inaudible) and it’s going to resolve them in the future – I don’t know how far is that future. But I think I remember you saying at a Senate hearing that Iran should let go of some of its centrifuges. Can you elaborate: What is really the picture that the U.S. Administration had in mind regarding the centrifuges?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, that’s part of the negotiation, of course. And I don’t know the exact article to which you’re speaking – the exact quote – but in the joint plan of action for these six months, Iran can only replace damaged centrifuges with like centrifuges. So if a IR-1 is damaged, it can only be replaced with an IR-1, not with an IR-2 – IR-2m. So for this six months it’s pretty clear what is allowed and what is not allowed, and no more – we’re not talking about increasing the number of centrifuges during this period of time.

When we get to the comprehensive negotiation, we will have a lot of elements to discuss to give the international community confidence, and the number of centrifuges is one of those very critical elements.

QUESTION: Is it about Iran letting go of the centrifuges, or you have a different picture?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think there are a lot of things we can do, and certainly the number of centrifuges is something that is of great interest to us, but I’m not going to negotiate it here.

QUESTION: Kasra Naji from the BBC Persian Television in London. If you wanted to be very optimistic and we assume that everything went according to plan, both sides played well and agreed on everything, what I want to know is how soon can the Iranians expect the sanctions to be lifted?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, that is a hypothetical if there was ever a hypothetical. (Laughter.) I don’t even know how to begin to answer that question. I think that in any agreement – the Joint Plan of Action is a good example. In the Joint Plan of Action, some of the sanctions were lifted – the limited sanctions that we dealt with were lifted immediately, some of them were tied to events that took place, the dilution of 20-percent-enriched uranium.

Some of them come at the beginning of the story, the middle, the end of the story. The repatriated funds are metered out over the months, as is the conversion to oxide of some of the 20-percent-enriched uranium.

So I think if you look at the JPOA, you can see that there’s a matching and a metering of both actions and relief. And so I’m sure that we will look to that kind of pattern. But everything is up for negotiation.

QUESTION: Are you suggesting that there will be a step-by-step --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don’t --

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) the end. I thought --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don’t know.

QUESTION: -- nothing is agreed on until everything --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure. Everything will have to --

QUESTION: If that’s the case, then how can you go forward on this step-by-step basis, the relief --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You’re mixing --

QUESTION: -- associated to these steps?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: With all due respect, you’re mixing apples and typewriters. (Laughter.) The – in the Joint Plan of Action, everything had to be agreed to before we had a final Joint Plan of Action, okay. So we didn’t just agree to one thing and then relieve some sanctions, then agreed to the next thing, relieve some sanctions. We agreed to a whole package. And in that whole package there were elements of relief that happened right away, elements of relief that happened when Iran took further action. Because Iran didn’t do everything on day one; they can’t do everything on day one. We didn’t expect them to do everything on day one, so we didn’t do everything on day one.

What will happen in the comprehensive agreement, I don’t know. I’m just pointing to the Joint Plan of Action as one model that worked for the Joint Plan of Action that might work for a comprehensive agreement. But it’s all open to negotiation.

MODERATOR: Yes. Laurence, go ahead.

QUESTION: Laurence Norman, from The Wall Street Journal. I have a couple of questions. You said in the past that, as a former businesswoman, you wouldn’t rush into Iran with a six-month timeframe. Are you satisfied – is the U.S. comfortable with the level of engagement that European companies have with Iran? Or are there any concerns? And I’m just going to push you on the twelve month question again --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Really?

QUESTION: -- because I don’t think you quite answered it. If there’s no deal after 12 months, is it over?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So as Secretary Kerry has said, I think as the President has implied, we would, of course, prefer countries to wait to see where we get with a comprehensive agreement before rushing off to Iran. There are areas, because of our limited sanctions relief, where business can begin again, and it’s perfectly legitimate for those businesses in the auto kit sector for instance, in petrochemicals, to see what they can do. That business sector is open, within limits of what is written in the sanctions relief.

But what we don’t think is good for business and not good for Iran – it’s not fair, in our view, for the Iranian people for countries to go to Iran and say, “We want to get in line, so if a comprehensive agreement is reached we can be first in line.” It raises people’s expectations, and the relief will only come if there is a comprehensive agreement.

And I want to make sure that the Iranian people know that we want to provide that sanctions relief. One of the reasons that we were glad to structure a humanitarian channel is because our sanctions never were on food or medicine or medical devices, but the Iranian people appeared to be having a hard time getting that. I could imagine a lot of reasons for that. But we wanted to do whatever we could to facilitate that the Iranian people directly got food and medicine and medical devices. And so our Treasury Department has worked to facilitate humanitarian channels so banks don’t have to be afraid that they’re going to get sanctioned if they provide those things.

So we certainly want – and I would say to the Iranian people this evening who listen to any of your reports that we hope they get sanctions relief. And what it will take is the Iranian Government assuring the international community in very concrete, visible, verifiable ways that they will not obtain a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: And 12 months?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Twelve months. We are committed to working as fast as we can. And I don’t think answering that hypothetical serves the purpose of doing that at all.

MODERATOR: Great. Yes, right up front here.

QUESTION: Hi. I’m Takashi with NHK Broadcasting. As far as an implementation of the first measures is concerned, are you satisfied with the pace and scope of Iranians’ implementation so far? And are you going to talk about it tomorrow?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Tomorrow is focused on beginning the negotiation of the comprehensive agreement, not to look backwards at the JPOA. As I said, the IAEA will be providing a monthly report verifying the monitoring is done and all of that is taking place. I think Dr. Timbie told me that, in fact, the daily access is now daily. I know from Richard Nephew, who also works on the sanctions, that we’ve put pieces in place. And obviously Adam Szubin here from Treasury – all of that is going forward. So I think, gentlemen, you would say satisfied that things are being implemented. Yes.

MODERATOR: Great. I think we just have time for two more, probably. I’ll go here, and then you’ll be the last question. So go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m with AFP. With the six countries within the P5+1 being pretty unified so far, are you confident this is going to continue to be the case over the next six months, 12 months (inaudible)?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I do. That’s not to say we don’t have national differences. We always have. But when it comes to the objective we have here, which is to give the international community confidence that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons effort in mind and objective to get a nuclear weapon and that, in fact, they have taken the steps necessary so that they cannot obtain a nuclear weapon, we are completely unified on that objective.

QUESTION: But then how do you get there?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, there’ll be some differences. But we have always worked through those differences, and that unity of effort has been critical in getting the JPOA. And I think that you will find from every member of the European Union, the P5+1, a great sense of relief that, in fact, that first step was taken. It was very difficult to achieve, and now we want to build on that. And I don’t think anybody in the EU, the P5+1, wants to waste that very good step by not building on it further.

MODERATOR: Okay. I promised the last question to you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) news agency based in Vienna. I have a question for – just say something about the mutual trust between Iran and U.S. Because there was a deal last year in Geneva. And for this time, with a new step for the comprehensive agreement, do you think this – the deal before has improved the mutual trust between those two countries? And do you also say something about heavy-water reactor in Arak, and if they promise to modify to light-water reactor, so would you satisfy with that in this issue?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think we have always said, and the President of the United States has said, we have decades of mistrust between our countries, and you don’t overcome that even with a very good first step of a nuclear agreement. So we have a long way to go yet. Do we understand each other perhaps a little bit better? Yes. Do we have ways to communicate with each other we’ve never had before? Yes. But we still have a very long way to go.

And so any comprehensive agreement will be based on verification, will be based on monitoring, will be based on transparency, and will be based on concrete steps and actions that are taken that can be seen and visible and declared and understood and remove the concern that the international community has. So it has to be very visible, very concrete, very transparent, very real. And that’s probably true for both sides.

In terms of Arak, the heavy-water reactor, […], we hope to find an answer that is not a heavy-water reactor, which we think does not lend itself to a civil nuclear program. And so we were pleased to see the head of the Atomic Energy Agency Dr. Salehi say that they were open to discussions of whether there were modifications that would be viable. I think we have a long way to go in these discussions, but I think that we all have to be open to ideas and ways to address our concerns.

MODERATOR: Thank you so much. Just a couple planning notes. Tomorrow the plenary session, as I think [Senior Administration Official] mentioned, will begin at 11. There’ll be a pool spray at the top. We’ll be sending out to everyone who’s registered with us periodic updates about how long meetings last, who’s in them. And feel free to reach out to us with questions, and we’ll let you know if and when we have another backgrounder we’ll do.

Again, for folks who walked in late, this was all attributable to Senior Administration Official. No names, please. Let’s all play by the rules here. And I think we’re looking forward to a few days full of lots of meetings, and we’ll keep you updated as much as we can. So with that, everyone enjoy your first night here in Vienna. We’ll see you soon.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you.



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