Washington: Some key issues in negotiations with Iran over its contentious nuclear programme have been resolved but “sticking points” still remain, the White House said yesterday.
The White House statement came as a top American negotiating team led by Secretary of State John Kerry have reportedly entered the last phase of its talks with the Iranians.
“Over the last week or so, important progress that has been made. There have been some key issues in the negotiations that have been closed, and that's a good sign,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily news conference.
“That said, there continue to be some sticking points that remain unresolved, and as I've been saying for the better part of a couple of weeks now, the President has directed his team to remain engaged and participate in conversations as long as those conversations remain useful.
“And given the progress that's been made and given the success that they've had in closing out some key issues, that's an indication that the talks are useful,” he said in response to a question.
Earnest said if the talks are not completed today, then the interim agreement will be extended again. “This interim agreement has been helpful. I know that's true of many Republicans in Congress who originally criticised the interim agreement,” he said.
“It also happens to be the view of our P5-plus-1 partners and of Iran. And so there is a unified commitment to making sure that that interim agreement remains in place, but the whole idea of an interim agreement is that it remains in place only until a final agreement can be reached,” the White House official said.
Diplomats from the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany are negotiating with Iran for a deal that would see Iran scale down its atomic activities in order to make it impossible for Tehran to make an atomic bomb.
Earnest said one of the reasons that the US and its international partners have sought to pursue a diplomatic opportunity to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, is the risk that exists that if Iran does obtain a nuclear weapon, that it could set off a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.
That would be destabilising to an already volatile region of the world, Earnest said.
“It would also have a negative impact on the national security interests of the United States. It obviously would not be good for our closest ally in the region, Israel,” he said.
“That is one of the reasons that we have sought to capitalise on the best opportunity we have to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and that's pursuing this diplomatic opening,” he said.