Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday took to Twitter to strike back at his American counterpart, Secretary of State John Kerry, placing the blame on the world powers for the failure of nuclear talks to yield an agreement over the weekend.
“Mr. Secretary, was it Iran that gutted over half of US draft Thursday night? and publicly commented against it Friday morning?” he inquired via Twitter.
“No amount of spinning can change what happened within 5+1 in Geneva from 6PM Thursday to 545 PM Saturday, but it can further erode confidence,” Zarif said.
Earlier in the day, Kerry dispelled earlier reports that the P5+1 nations had not presented a unified front against the Iranian delegation in Geneva, and said it was Iran that could not accept the deal “at that particular moment.”
Iran had blamed France for allegedly scuppering the proposal after nearly reaching an agreement after almost two days of negotiation. And France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had been the P5+1 representative most vocal in raising objections to the terms on the table.
Zarif told Iranian state TV Monday night that the P5+1 and Iran were close to finalizing a deal during the marathon talks over the weekend.
“We can’t measure success of the Geneva talks in numbers, but if we wanted to achieve 90%, maybe we achieved 70-75%,” the newly inaugurated Iranian website nuclearenergy.ir quoted him saying in a tweet.
Zarif further claimed that the Western sanctions had not achieved their goal and that they had only heightened tensions between the Islamic Republic and the international community.
“Before sanctions Iran only had 200 centrifuges, now it has 19,000,” he said. “The sanctions only affected normal people and made them oppose the West even more.”
Despite trading barbs with Kerry, Zarif expressed hope that the ongoing negotiations between the Islamic Republic and world powers would yield tangible results, and said that his country was optimistic over the prospect of achieving an agreement. He was quoted as saying that the fact that no details of the negotiations have been leaked to the press by either side is testament to the seriousness of all parties.
“I’m hopeful that this [nuclear] issue will be resolved, Zarif said. “Comments by various people at different times will not impede progress,” he added.
The sides are scheduled to meet again on November 20, although not at the foreign minister level.
Speaking to the BBC on Monday, Kerry said negotiators had been “very, very close… extremely close” to reaching a deal with Iran.
“I think we were separated by four or five different formulations of a particular concept,” he said.
In the BBC interview, Kerry acknowledged that “the French have been more vocal about one thing or another.” But he said, “The fact is that we had a unity on Saturday in a proposal put in front of the Iranians. But because of some the changes they [the Iranians] felt they had to go back and change it.”
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the world powers presented a united front to Iran at the weekend talks that failed to reach an accord, and although “some gaps” remained between parties at the talks, “most of those gaps are narrow.”
In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has acknowledged that an overall deal is likely between Iran and world powers, which would undercut Israeli threats to launch military action against Iranian nuclear sites. Yet he hailed the delay as a chance to “achieve a much better deal.”
“The target date for this deal is the date on which a good deal will be achieved that will deny Iran a military nuclear capability,” he said in the Knesset.
Netanyahu has demanded that Iran be stripped of its entire “military nuclear” capacity, including all enrichment capability. He has repeatedly branded the emerging Geneva deal as “bad” and “dangerous” and publicly urged Kerry not to sign it.
AP contributed to this report.