Kerry works on Iran nuke deal, Netanyahu critical
Montreux, Switzerland — Senior U.S. and Iranian officials kicked off the second day of the latest round of nuclear negotiations in Switzerland Tuesday as Israel’s leader declared to the U.S. Congress that Tehran aims for Mideast dominance and won’t let any such deal thwart its plan.
As Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and their teams sought to hammer out an agreement at a luxury hotel in the Swiss resort of Montreux, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his case against one 4,090 miles away in Washington.
In a sign that Netanyahu’s speech was resonating outside Washington, Zarif decried comments that President Barack Obama made on Monday — as part of an administration-wide effort to push back on the Israeli’s criticism — in which he said that Iran would have to suspend its nuclear activities for at least a decade as part of any final agreement.
Zarif, in a statement quoted by Iran’s official news agency IRNA, said Obama’s remarks were “unacceptable and threatening,” aimed at attracting U.S. public opinion while reacting to Netanyahu “and other extremist opponents of the talks.”
The U.S. and Iranian sides met for two hours on Tuesday morning before taking a break, according to U.S. officials. The officials said they expected the talks would resume later and likely continue through Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress, which will be delivered in the late afternoon local time in Montreux.
“We’re working away, productively,” Kerry told reporters.
“We are moving and we are talking to be able to make progress,” said Zarif. “There are issues and we want to address them. But there is a seriousness that we need to move forward. As we have said all along we need the necessary political will to understand that the only way to move forward is to negotiate.”
The U.S., Iran and other world powers are racing to meet an end-of-March target to reach the outline of deal, with a July deadline for a final agreement that would put constraints on Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.