• The understanding reached on Iran’s nuclear program sets the foundation for a good deal, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said. The deal would see Iran reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98% for 15 years and cut its installed centrifuges by more than two-thirds for 10 years, Kerry said.
• Once a final agreement is implemented, the international community will have the confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and will remain so, Kerry said.
• French President Francois Hollande said France, along with its partners, will monitor the implementation of the terms of the agreement before a final deal by the end of June, “so that the international community can be assured that Iran will not be in position to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
• U.S. President Barack Obama praised the world powers that have agreed on the general terms of a deal meant to keep Iran’s nuclear program peaceful. “I am convinced if this framework leads to a final, comprehensive deal, it will make our country, our allies, our world safer,” Obama said Thursday from the Rose Garden at the White House.
• “If Iran cheats, the world will know it,” Obama said.
• Obama said that he would reach out to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to explain and defend the tentative framework. “If, in fact, Prime Minister Netanyahu is looking for the most effective way to ensure that Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon, this is the best option,” Obama said.
• Obama warned leaders of Congress not to stop the deal. “If Congress kills this deal not based on expert analysis and without offering any reasonable alternative, then it’s the United States that will be blamed for the failure of diplomacy,” Obama said. “International unity will collapse.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sent a tweet saying that “parameters to resolve major issues” have been reached.
The United States and other world powers have agreed on the general terms of a deal meant to keep Iran’s nuclear program peaceful, a major breakthrough after months of high-stakes negotiations.
The deal, announced Thursday evening in Switzerland, calls for Iran to limit its enrichment capacity and stockpile in exchange for the European Union lifting economic sanctions that have hobbled Iran’s economy.
Iran also agreed to enrich nuclear materials only at one plant, with other nuclear facilities converted for other uses, said Federica Mogherini, foreign policy chief for the European Union.
The United States would lift many sanctions on Iran after Iran’s implementation of the agreement is confirmed.
The preliminary agreement will not put an end to Iran’s enrichment activities, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said.
“None of those measures include closing any of our facilities. The proud people of Iran would never accept that,” he said.
Iran will, however, abide by the agreement, which would limit enrichment activities to one location, he said.
Leading negotiators announced the deal in a news conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, where they have been meeting for months.
Negotiators must resolve additional details of a final deal by the end of June. The announcement marks the end of a round of talks that started last week.
They were supposed to reach a framework for a deal by Tuesday but stretched the talks into Thursday.
The world powers involved in the talks were the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany.
The talks, aimed at reaching a preliminary political deal on Iran’s nuclear program, blew past their initial, self-imposed deadline of late Tuesday as Iranian and U.S. negotiators struggled to find compromises on key issues.
But the negotiators doggedly continued their work in Lausanne, trying to overcome decades of mistrust between Tehran and Washington.
The mutual mistrust had been a serious problem in the talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said earlier Thursday.
“I believe respect is something that needs to be exercised in practice and in deeds, and I hope that everyone is engaging in that in mutual respect,” he said.
Iran wants swift relief from punishing sanctions that have throttled its economy. And Western countries want to make sure any deal holds Iran back from being able to rapidly develop a nuclear weapon.
The Obama administration needed something solid enough it can sell to a skeptical Congress, which has threatened to impose new sanctions on Iran. The potential deal is also coming under sustained attack from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — plus Germany began in 2006 and have had a tortured history.
Over the past nine years, the push and pull over Iran’s nuclear program produced a bewildering array of proposals. Meanwhile, as talks dragged on, the United States, the European Union and others imposed sanctions on Iran, provoking resentment among the Tehran’s leaders, who called the sanctions a crime against humanity.
One proposed solution that seemed for a time to gain traction was for Iran to ship to Russia much of the uranium that could be used to make nuclear weapons.
Overall, the challenge all along was twofold: To assure the international community that Iran could not develop nuclear weapons (which it denied in any event that it was doing); and to accommodate the country’s assertion of its right — as a signer of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons — to enrich nuclear fuel for civilian purposes.
The broad outlines of a deal seem to have been clear for some time. Iran’s ability to enrich nuclear material to weapons grade would be limited. In return, international sanctions would be gradually lifted.
But the devil was in the details, and the numbers, timing, sequencing and verification procedures proved devilishly difficult to resolve. Until now.
The 2013 election of Hassan Rouhani, a political moderate, to Iran’s presidency infused the talks with new hope, though questions lingered over whether he could persuade the country’s hard-liners to accept an agreement.
U.S. leaders also were divided over the agreement as envisioned. In a March 9 letter signed by 47 Republican U.S. senators, Iran’s leaders were warned that any deal not approved by the Senate could immediately be revoked by President Barack Obama’s successor in 2017.
Democrats denounced the sending of such a letter to foreign leaders as an unprecedented intervention in negotiations between the administration and another country. And Iran’s leaders also dismissed the letter.
The two sides have set themselves a deadline of June 30 for reaching a final agreement.