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Diplomacy in Action

Secretary Kerry's Video Message on the Geneva Talks With Iran


Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
November 26, 2013

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SECRETARY KERRY: You'll be hearing a lot about what the United States and our partners just achieved in Geneva so I wanted to take a minute to share with you an inside view of what we really accomplished here and to explain very clearly what it is and what it isn't. First of all, this is a beginning. It's a first step. Over the coming months, we're going to roll up our sleeves and keep working with the parties at the table in order to reach a final, comprehensive agreement that ensures Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon and that the nuclear program that they do have will be entirely peaceful. And that has to be absolutely verifiable.

So let me lay out the main points of what we've already achieved here in this first step agreement. And the reason I want to do that is, it's significant. This agreement that we've just signed is the first in almost a decade to put any kind of meaningful limits on Iran's nuclear program. And we're not just slowing down its progress; we're actually halting it and even rolling it back in some key areas. That's very important. It means that even as we continue to move forward with negotiations, Iran's nuclear program will not move forward, and in some respects it's going to be moving backwards.

So here's exactly what this agreement does. In order to work, nuclear weapons require either highly enriched uranium or plutonium. Uranium, as I'm sure you know, is found in nature, but it's found in a form, a raw form, that can't be used for a bomb. So to make it useful for nuclear weapons, you need to separate the majority of the uranium that is not useful for nuclear weapons from the small amount that is, and this is a process called enrichment.

Highly enriched uranium, or HEU, can be produced in a number of ways, but an increasingly common way is through the use of centrifuges because they are low power, very cheap to operate, and easy to hide. Uranium for weapons is about 90% enriched. And uranium for reactors, for instance to give you nuclear power for your electricity in your home, is usually at about 5%. So you see the difference here. Plutonium, on the other hand, is not found in nature. It requires putting uranium into a reactor and then you separate out the plutonium from the uranium. Our proposal addresses both of these paths to nuclear weapons.

On enrichment, we are eliminating Iran's stockpile of already enriched - 20% enriched - uranium. We are holding their centrifuge program where it is today, and we are stopping them from using their most advanced centrifuges. These are centrifuges that can separate uranium very quickly and do the enrichment very fast so they are very risky and that's why we keep them away from that process for now.

On plutonium, we're putting on hold the most meaningful parts of their reactor that's currently under construction in a place called Arak, Iran. Now this is their most likely source of plutonium, and that's why it's something we are absolutely determined to stop. On top of this, we're also adding more international inspections so that we know exactly what Iran is doing at these risky places and that is very consistent with our deal and, most importantly, it's so that we can make absolutely certain that they are not using these facilities during the time that we're negotiating the comprehensive deal in order to move towards nuclear weapons. In other words, we're verifying, and for the first time, we will get inspectors into their critical facilities every single day.

Now let me tell you what this first step does not do, because some people are putting out some misinformation on it and I want it to be clear. It does not lift the current architecture of our sanctions. Our sanctions are basically banking and oil sanctions, and those sanctions will stay in place. All the core sanctions on financial services remain firmly in place, and we do this in exchange for Iran keeping its end of the agreement -- that they will get a small amount of additional money which is totally reversible if we need to, if they don't keep their word, but we give them a small amount of relief. Iran will be allowed to repatriate about $4.2 billion or so in oil revenues and will be allowed to export about $2.5 billion in petrochemicals and vehicles. So believe me, when I say this relief is limited and reversible, I mean it.

We all know that if the agreement falls apart, Iran is going to quickly face even tougher sanctions. I want you to know these were not easy negotiations. We drove a very hard bargain to achieve what we needed to in terms of our verification and certainty about where they're going. And we drove a hard bargain because we have one unwavering purpose in our goal. President Obama has been absolutely clear that Iran cannot and will not acquire a nuclear weapon. And today, thanks to this effort, we took an important first step towards guaranteeing that that never happens, and I think we did it in the most effective way. We did it through diplomacy.

So now it's time to get back to work. We are immediately going to work on the final agreement, the comprehensive agreement, and our diplomats and our experts will be at the negotiating table very soon again working to achieve this final comprehensive agreement that addresses all of our concerns and our friends: Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Arab Emirates, others. The whole world has an interest in making sure that this is a peaceful program. We absolutely also have an interest in trying to achieve that through a peaceful, diplomatic means and also to have a total answer to the question that challenges the security of the United States, the Middle East, and the world.

So we're going to get this done, I hope, but we're not cocky about it. We're not overconfident. It's going to take a lot of work, and in the end, it's really up to Iran to make the choice, to prove that its program is indeed peaceful. They can say it, but saying it doesn't make it happen. It has to be proven. And in the end, they have to be the ones to make the choice to do that. So let's work together, all of us, to try and forge a different future that benefits all of us. Thank you.



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