Following a weekend of marathon negotiations with world powers in Geneva, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday told parliament that the Islamic Republic would not bow to threats or sanctions by any power.
Speaking before the Islamic Consultative Assembly, Rouhani insisted that Iran would not budge from its demand to maintain domestic uranium enrichment, saying it was Tehran’s “red line” in any talks with the so-called P5+1, the group of five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany who are running the Geneva talks.
For us, there are red lines that cannot be crossed. Our national interests are our red lines – incl enrichment & other rights under intl law
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) November 10, 2013
He added that economic sanctions by world powers not only hurt Iran, but also the states levying them, Israel Radio reported.
The president told the legislative body that his government faced complicated domestic and foreign issues, and needed “support by people, Parliament and the Supreme Leader as well as domestic consensus on foreign issues,” the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
He urged world powers not miss the “exceptional opportunity” offered by the talks, the country’s semi-official IRIB radio station reported.
In a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on Saturday, Rouhani repeated his characterization of the talks as an opportunity.
“I hope that the sides negotiating with Iran… will use the exceptional opportunity which Iran has offered the West and the international community so that we can reach a positive result within a logical framework,” he said, adding, “The other parties in talks with the Islamic Republic of Iran should pay attention that the current atmosphere is an exceptional one created by Iranian people through participation in Iran’s June 14 presidential election.”
Iranians voted for “constructive interaction” with the world, he reportedly said.
Rouhani said Iran displayed “a strong and positive will” for reaching an agreement, and that his country sought nuclear energy for peaceful purposes within the framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and under supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the international nuclear watchdog.
He also insisted on Saturday that Iran would not suspend enrichment, and that “the only solution is negotiations based on mutual respect and trust.”
In an apparent response to scathing public criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the deal that was almost secured in negotiations with Iran in Geneva Saturday, US Secretary of State John Kerry cautioned against “jumping to conclusions” about the terms of the accord and promised that any deal ultimately signed with Tehran would enable the US to “look our allies in the face and say, ‘This gets the job done.’”
Kerry, speaking at a press conference in Geneva after three days of talks ended with a promise to resume on November 20, said he knew the negotiations were arousing “very strong feelings among our allies” about “the consequences” of the choices being made, ” and that the US had “enormous respect for those concerns.”
But the US, he stressed, remained committed to preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons and to “protecting our allies,” particularly in the Middle East. People should not be jumping to conclusions about the emerging accord, and should not respond on the basis of “rumors or other parcels of information that somebody pretends to know.”
Kerry’s remarks seemed directed at least in part at Netanyahu, who on Friday branded the emerging deal “very, very bad,” directly urged Kerry not to sign it, and said Israel would not be bound by its terms.
Talks in Geneva between world powers and Iran ended early Sunday morning without a deal on Iran’s rogue nuclear program, after hitting a snag on Saturday when France questioned the terms of a proposed agreement. The sides agreed to meet again in Geneva on November 20, but at the level of “political directors” rather than foreign ministers.
France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the talks had managed to narrow differences without eliminating them and that there were still questions to be dealt with in future rounds.
“From the start, France wanted an agreement to the important question of Iran’s nuclear program,” he said, according to Sky News. “The Geneva meeting allowed us to advance, but we were not able to conclude because there are still some questions to be addressed.”
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also said a lot of progress had been made. At a joint press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Ashton said, “We’re not going into the details of our discussions but I pay tribute to all the ministers, including Laurent Fabius’s attempt to try and help support this process.”
Ashton appeared more disappointed than Zarif that the marathon negotiations had failed to yield an agreement. A relaxed and smiling Zarif, indeed, said it was “natural that when we start dealing with the details there would be differences of views, and we expected that.”
He said he was “not disappointed at all” that a final deal had proved elusive, and asked directly whether he attributed the failure to France, chose not to assign blame. He said he had been hoping to find “the political will to end this” nuclear standoff, and said, “I think we’re all on the same wavelength.” This would give the sides the “impetus” to move forward next time — “something to build on,” he said. If there weren’t differences, he added, smiling again, the sides would not have needed to meet.
Chances of bridging all differences appeared to diminish as the day went on, but efforts continued until after midnight. The foreign ministers of the P5+1 delegations held a last-ditch meeting late Saturday, and were later joined by Zarif, in an apparent effort to salvage the talks.
AP contributed to this report.