WASHINGTON — Iran has upheld its obligations under the Joint Plan of Action (JPA), paving the way for the P5+1 member states to agree to a four-month extension to the talks toward a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Tehran.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest wrote in a statement Friday evening that under the JPA, “as verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has met its commitments under that initial accord — ceasing its enrichment of uranium to higher levels; taking steps to neutralize its more dangerous stockpile of nuclear material; refraining from installing more centrifuges, including its more advanced models; halting advances at its Arak reactor; and submitting to broader and far more frequent inspections of its facilities.”
Earnest downplayed the sanctions relief Iran has received thus far as “limited,” and asserted that “the overwhelming majority of our sanctions remain in force.”
Negotiators in Vienna announced late Friday that both sides of the talks had agreed upon a four-month extension of talks toward a final agreement. The JPA itself had delineated a six-month negotiations period, but allowed for an additional extension of up to six months if both sides agreed to the terms.
Earnest argued that the JPA has been successful, explaining that “by preventing Iran from making progress toward a nuclear weapon, by making its nuclear program more transparent, and by keeping the pressure on Iran, the Joint Plan of Action achieved its broader purpose – providing time and space to work toward a long-term solution that would ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful.”
Describing prospects for a comprehensive nuclear deal with Tehran as “credible”, Earnest said that the administration along with its P5+1 partners believed that Iran had upheld its commitments under the JPA, making it possible to extend the negotiations.
Earnest delineated US goals in the negotiations – to reach a comprehensive deal “that addresses the various pathways Iran could take to obtain a nuclear weapon, by imposing strict limits on Iran’s enrichment capacity and facilities, eliminating our proliferation concerns with its Arak reactor, and establishing additional verification measures that will help us detect any covert activities or attempts to breakout as quickly as possible.”
On the background of earlier critiques that the administration had not been consulting sufficiently with either Congress or key regional allies, including Israel and the Gulf states, Earnest emphasized that the administration had worked in close consultation with both Capitol Hill and allies. In recent days, senior administration officials have held closed-door talks with select members of Congress to brief them on the status of talks.
Earnest stressed the urgency of resolving what he described as “one of the most pressing national security issues of our time.”
“We will not accept anything less than a comprehensive resolution that meets our objectives, which is why it is necessary for negotiations to continue,” Earnest concluded. “By moving forward, we will be able to preserve international unity, continue to halt the progress of Iran’s nuclear program, and pursue a comprehensive resolution that is coming into shape.”