Roundtable With Journalists
Under Secretary for Political Affairs
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Good evening, everyone. It’s always very good to be back in Israel, consulting with our very close friends and partners about this quite crucial security issue, that of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and ensuring the international community in the exclusively peaceful nature of its program. This goal is of the highest priority for the United States and, of course, for the Israeli Government as well.
I work hard to talk with my Israeli counterparts before and after every round of the discussions with my European Union and P5+1 colleagues on the Iran nuclear issue, because I think it’s quite important that people here – you, government officials, and opinion leaders here in Israel – know how these negotiations are progressing, and for me to hear and my team to hear their views.
Everyone feels the urgency of resolving this issue. And here that feeling of necessity is at least, if not more, acute than anywhere else, and so the perspectives provided to me are truly invaluable.
As you know, we began the comprehensive negotiations this week in Vienna, where we had, quite frankly, constructive, useful, and workmanlike discussions. We feel we made progress; and although we cannot predict what is ahead, we do have a path forward for how these talks will proceed and an overall framework for undertaking them.
Significantly, the European Union, the P5+1, and Iran were able to agree to a framework that will guide our negotiations over the next five months. While I will not go into specifics – I know you’ll ask, but I will not go into specifics about any particular issue that’s on the table – we have made very clear that all of our concerns about Iran’s nuclear program must be addressed in order to get a comprehensive agreement done.
And I’d recommend that folks take a very close look at the Joint Plan of Action, which is the first step, but we hope not the only step and certainly not the last step, to address our concerns. Because the Joint Plan of Action really contains, in one way or another, all of the concerns that must be addressed.
These conversations in Vienna obviously gave us additional insights into Iran’s perspective, and they, of course, heard ours loudly, clearly, and in a unified fashion. We have begun to see some areas of agreement, as well as areas in which we will have to work through very difficult issues. Again, I’m not going to outline what those specific areas are of either agreement or disagreement because we cannot negotiate this agreement in public. But we know the work that lies ahead, and we have begun it and are ready to do it.
I know that some in Israel have many questions about these negotiations. We all do. And there are some everywhere, certainly in my own country, and on any given day myself included, doubt whether we will ever be able to ensure that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon at the end of this process. Believe me, we don’t go into these talks with rose-colored glasses on, and we are clear-eyed about the enormous challenges that lay ahead. We do not know if, at the end of the day, we will be able to get this done diplomatically.
I also know that as close as our relationship is, we don’t always agree on every single tactical approach. But as we go forward with these negotiations, it is important to keep in mind that we do, in fact, share the goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. And we do agree that diplomacy is the best option for achieving that goal, if it is achievable. And as we work every day towards that end, we will continue to talk to our partners in the region, here in Israel and throughout the region about how best to get there.
Indeed, it is because of our steadfast commitment to Israel’s security and to the security of the region that President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and our entire government is determined to prevent Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon and to ensuring that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.
As we begin these next five months of talks, let me say this very clearly: It will be critical that our negotiators and our experts and our partners have the space required to get this done diplomatically and to do the complex, tough work this process demands. This negotiation will be difficult under the best of circumstances, and we cannot afford to do anything to make it harder.
Let me again remind people that nothing is agreed in these negotiations until everything is agreed. And the United States will hold our veto on any agreement until all of our concerns about Iran’s nuclear program are met. Going forward, experts from the United States, the European Union, the rest of the P5+1, and Iran will be in virtually continuous discussions to work on the very complicated, technical details involved in this agreement. And I and the other political directors will meet regularly in Vienna, with the next round of the political director level talks beginning on March 17th.
We know this will be a difficult and lengthy process. We will take the time required to do it right, but with the intent to complete a comprehensive agreement by July 20th. And we will continue to work in a deliberate and concentrated manner to see if we can get the job done so that we can make the United States, Israel, the region, and indeed the entire world a safer place.
Thank you, and I’m happy to take your questions.
MS. HARF: We can – if people who have questions want to put their hands up, we can just do it that way, and just ensuring that folks get one before we go on to a second round. And again, remind us who you are and again, remind us who you are and what outlet you’re from . Go ahead.
QUESTION: Itamar Eichner, Yediot Ahronot. You mentioned (inaudible) possibility to enrich and you said something about (inaudible) program and you are already cooperating with (inaudible)?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I can’t elaborate, because that would be going into the specifics of the negotiation. Iran could choose not to have a domestic program. There are many reasons for them to get their needs met through international cooperation outside of their country. But if, at the end of the day, they do want to have a small, discrete, limited program that addresses practical needs, it is envisioned as a possibility in the Joint Plan of Action. But obviously the capacity, the scope, the facilities, the nature of it would have to be highly constrained, highly monitored, and verified on a quite regular basis.
MS. HARF: Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Shlomo Cesana from Israel Hayom. I wonder if you can comment to Gary Samore that he said it’s a small chance to (inaudible).
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, I think because – I read that article, and it’s a little more nuanced than there’s no chance. I think the point that I took out of the article was: Are there enough incentives on the table and disincentives on the table to make this the moment that you can come to a comprehensive agreement? And none of us really know the answer to that question, but we must try. And indeed, Gary implies in the article that you have to give diplomacy a chance.
The President of the United States has told all of us who are involved in this, both those of us who sit in the room and do the negotiations and, quite frankly, the vast army of people in our government who support our negotiation, that we must do everything we can to see if we can resolve this diplomatically.
QUESTION: To earn time or --
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Excuse me?
QUESTION: To earn time or to --
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: No, not to earn time. No, not to earn time. The reason for the first step was to, in fact, put time on the clock, to stop the advance of Iran’s nuclear program and to roll it back in specific ways so we would have this period of time to negotiate a comprehensive agreement. So not to put time on the clock at all; quite the opposite, to put the constraints on Iran’s program to get the transparency that is necessary, to get Iran to make the commitments, decisions to deal with the infrastructure of their program in a way that ensures that they cannot obtain a nuclear weapon and that their program is exclusively peaceful.
But this is a very, very complex undertaking. And President Obama has said he gives it a 50-50 chance. That may be a little bit more than Gary would. Some people here might say zero as well. Iran doesn’t have a great record in the past. We all know that. We all know Iran’s history.
But at the same time, I will say this: Since the Joint Plan of Action was put into effect on January 20th and Iran was to undertake a number of commitments, there is no reason for me to believe – and the IAEA just issued a report; it’s a restricted report, so I can’t speak to it, though as member-state of the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, I have seen it. I will say I have no reason to believe but that Iran has kept every commitment that they were supposed to take during the first month. So, so far that’s only one month in a very long road, but it certainly is a better sign than if they had not followed through on their commitments.
QUESTION: When you talk about how – the critical space for diplomacy and that we cannot afford anything that will make the process harder, how does that translate to your discussions with the Israeli Government?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, I think it doesn’t translate just to the Israeli Government; it really is to the entire world. So we want to make sure that we can stay focused on this negotiation, that there aren’t additional things that sort of are heaped on the process that would make it – give it even greater challenges. So it is not Israel specifically; it really speaks to the whole world.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Yeah. Hi. Tovah Lazaroff from the Jerusalem Post. You were just talking about the limited possibility. You used the term “practical needs.” Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz gave a speech this week (inaudible) in which he said he’s particularly been concerned about that term, because the way that term is placed there he believes would actually allow Iran to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon and would bring (inaudible) – that is the term that’s being used – is there another term that could be used – and it just puts me back to that same question about what will – what can you do to (inaudible).
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, as I said, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. We have to be satisfied that, in fact, this is an exclusively peaceful program, if they have a domestic enrichment program that it is limited, that it is verified, that it is – has tremendous constraints on it. And unless we are satisfied, there will be no agreement. That is true of everyone who sits at the table. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
And everyone has to remember that the United States is engaged in this in the way we are because President Obama believes that this is a fundamental security concern for the United States. And so we will make sure it is an agreement that can stand up and can assure us that Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon and that is an exclusively peaceful program, if there is a domestic, limited, constrained, verified, small, discrete enrichment program.
QUESTION: I’d like to go back to what you said (inaudible) ask you about your reference to (inaudible) must do during the next five months. And it’s very hard not to (inaudible) or Israeli leaders, especially Netanyahu, the prime minister. He (inaudible) said that those talks are irrelevant. So you’d like to see him quiet for next five months? (Laughter.)
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I never tell a prime minister or a president that they should be quiet. (Laughter.) I have tremendous admiration for Prime Minister Netanyahu. He, like all prime ministers and president, particularly of democracies, have to say it like they believe it is for the security of their country. That is his solemn responsibility. And so I respect the judgments he makes as the leader of this country. And I would not substitute mine for his where Israel is concerned, or for anyone in this room, for that matter, because you live here. This is your country, you are citizens of Israel; these are judgments you have to make for yourself.
In my own country, the President is the commander-in-chief; he’s the President of the United States. The one concrete example I can give you is he has asked our Congress not to pass additional sanctions legislation right now. We believe very strongly that if the Congress passed additional sanctions legislation, even if that legislation didn’t come into effect for six months or even a year, would send the wrong signal and would heap an additional requirement on this negotiation that might create real problems.
And so our view is if an action risks the negotiation and risks the diplomacy, then the onus becomes on the person who has created that risk, including if Iran takes actions that risk the diplomacy. So this is about everybody; that this is a very difficult negotiation, the consequences are enormous. And so we are asking everyone to be thoughtful about the steps that they take so that we have the time and the space to test whether, in fact, we can get to a comprehensive agreement. We don’t know if we can. But we ought to find out, because the options if we cannot are very difficult and very tough for all of us.
QUESTION: Chico Menashe with Israeli Public Radio. Two questions please. First of all, what made you to come out publicly in front of the cameras here on the record, in contradiction to the way you did it until now? Is it a kind of preemptive strike for the Israeli comments after you brief them?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: What a thought. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Second question: Are you comfortable with Israeli comments and actions here, on the Hill, using Israeli lobby organizations, so on, Israeli comments about the fact that – you heard all the comments – Iran gets everything for nothing, zero enrichments regarding Netanyahu’s position. Are you comfortable with these kind of statements?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: So this is not the first on-the-record interview I have done. I have done other on-the-record interviews in my own country. I did Andrea Mitchell from Vienna. I did, actually, interviews with media outlets that go into Iran on the record from Vienna. So we are trying to do a little bit more on the record so that I can talk directly with people and they can hear my words directly out of my mouth, on behalf of my country. I don’t represent myself; I represent the United States and the fine gentlemen who sit behind me who are the real experts in this regard, and the many people in my government who work so hard to try to make this negotiation into a comprehensive agreement that we could all stand behind.
People will make all kinds of comments. And quite frankly, I would like there to be zero enrichment, I would like there to be no facilities, I would like there not to be an indigenous program. I think I would like many things in life. But that does not mean I will always get them, and that is not necessarily the only path to ensuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon and that the international community can have confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its program. So that is certainly a path to that end, but it is not likely to – a negotiation doesn’t mean I get everything I want perfectly. What it means is will I get what I need to ensure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon --
QUESTION: But is the Israeli –
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: -- and can ensure -
QUESTION: -- position unrealistic?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: No, I think the Israeli position is what it is. And as I said, I respect the prime minister’s perspective. I’m sure that next week when he comes to the United States and speaks with the President of the United States, they will have a vigorous and robust discussion. And we have, perhaps, on this a different point of view, but it’s more on tactics than on outcome. On the outcome that we all seek, it is exactly the same. And that outcome is that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon and that we all are confident in the exclusively peaceful nature of its program. So the objective is identical, and that is what we are focused on.
MS. HARF: Who had – anyone else? Okay, Barak. And then we’ll go around for another round.
QUESTION: You said (inaudible) intend to get the deal until July 20th. Obviously, the JPOA states that you can prolong the talks for another six months. And in any case, Foreign Minister Zarif said basically the same, the Iranians want it until July. And I’m wondering if you can tell us whatever you can from (inaudible) your feeling about the Iranians, I mean, whether you feel that they are playing for time or that they are in a rush to get a deal.
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think we will see as things go forward. What I can say about this – these three days, two-plus days, two and a half days, is that it was workmanlike. The Iranians were very engaged, very substantive. We had substantive exchanges on details. Our experts got into a discussion on one aspect in some detail. Our experts will be meeting again with Iran quite soon and will be digging into some of the other elements that are necessary in a comprehensive agreement.
There will be virtually continuous discussions from now till July 20th in one form or another, either the P5+1 and the European Union drafting ideas, establishing technical requirements, thinking through the various aspects of a comprehensive agreement, having expert meetings with Iran’s experts, having political level meetings at my level to work through where there are gaps, where there are decisions that have to get made. And I would suspect when we come down to the close here, you may even see the foreign ministers sitting in a room together, because there will be some very tough decisions that will have to get made. So there will be virtually continuous work on this throughout this process.
So I think people do understand that we have to work intensely, we have to take all the time that is necessary to get a good agreement. You know that Secretary Kerry has long said that a bad agreement is much worse than no agreement. So we are going for a good agreement, and not just a good agreement, but an agreement that reaches the objectives that I’ve laid out here about Iran not obtaining a nuclear weapon and ensuring the international community of the exclusively peaceful nature of the program. So we all know that we need to do this intensely, that we need to focus, that we need to try to get to that comprehensive agreement, or find out that we can’t.
MS. HARF: Anyone else who hasn’t had one yet? (Inaudible) for seconds. Go ahead.
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Thank you.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask the Israeli prime minister – and we’ve been hearing a lot about this, about a strategic closeness between Israel and the moderate Gulf states on the way they perceive this, the whole negotiation process. You’ve been meeting with both – officials from both of them. How similar are the things that you hear in Jerusalem and how similar are the claims that are brought up and being discussed (inaudible)?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, I’m going to leave here and go to Riyadh and meet with the GCC, as well as meet with Saudi Arabia bilaterally and then onto the UAE for some bilateral meetings on a number of issues. And you should ask them yourselves, and I’m sure you will. I’d like them to speak for themselves.
What I will say is that these talks are solely on Iran’s nuclear program. And I know there is great concern in the region about Iran’s destabilization activities in the region, Iran’s support for Hezbollah – which is an issue obviously for Israel, for Lebanon, and very, very painfully in Syria – and Iran’s providing military advisors and support to Syria.
And we’ve seen today that the UN Security Council has finally passed a resolution on humanitarian access for Syria, 15 to nothing. It is a robust UN Security Council resolution, and now we have to try to see if we can’t actually get some more help to people on the ground, who are being starved to death as a weapon of war, having barrel bombs dropped on civilians, horror after horror in Syria.
So I understand that the region is very concerned about Iran’s activities in the region and throughout the world, as are we, as well as Iran’s actions on human rights, which from an American point of view and an Israeli point of view are not what they should be, and according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But this negotiation is solely focused on the nuclear negotiation. We are not going to make strategic decisions for people who live and work in this region without them. That’s not going to happen.
QUESTION: Ms. Sherman, what can you say about the sanctions? (Inaudible) people from the Israeli side said that President Rouhani was (inaudible). Do you feel that something (inaudible) to the sanctions regime?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I really don’t think so, and we don’t have any evidence that that is the case. I am happy to get evidence from anyone that that is the case, because we are very committed to enforcing the major sanctions architecture which remains in place.
Iran did get some limited, targeted sanctions relief – auto kits, petrochemicals, gold, precious metals, a better channel to ensure humanitarian goods can get to Iran, and that’s pharmaceuticals, food, medical devices, which never were sanctioned but had a hard time getting in because of the financial sanctions. So we have done those things, and some businesses can legitimately use those small, targeted, limited sanctions to do business. But the major sanctions architecture remains in place. All the UN Security Council resolutions remain in place. And I think it’s taken a little while for businesses and governments to understand what they can and cannot do. I think it is very clear to people now what they can and cannot do.
And I hope what the people of Iran understand is that because they took this first step, they got limited, targeted sanctions relief for this six months. And if they seek – and I believe they do – to have all of the sanctions lifted, the path to do that is very clear; and that is a comprehensive agreement that will assure all of us that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon and that its program is exclusively peaceful. So the irony of all of this is that the Iranian people and the Iranian Government understands they can get relief, but the only road to relief is to get that comprehensive agreement, to the full relief that they look for.
MS. HARF: Yes.
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: What I will say to you about that is every issue of concern to us is part of this discussion. And I would also note that the Joint Plan of Action says that the UN Security Council resolutions must be addressed before a final agreement. And you can look and see what’s in the content of those UN Security Council resolutions.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) no military program (inaudible)?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: We’re in a negotiation.
MS. HARF: Who’s next? Barak.
QUESTION: I want to go back to (inaudible) what’s going on in terms of (inaudible) and your impression of what kind of political pressure the Iranian negotiation team is under and how it affects the talks or (inaudible). Because, for example, they asked you guys during the talks to tone down the rhetoric and things like that, because they also get some (inaudible) hearings in their parliament and (inaudible) Congress, but it’s (inaudible).
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, I’m sure – I think there is a reality to there being different points of view in Iran. Certainly, Iran is not the vigorous, robust democracy that Israel is or the United States of America is. Indeed, you know that the list of people who can run for president is decided, in essence, by the Guardian Council. So Iran is a different kind of government than what either Israel or the United States have or want.
But what I do think is real is there are different points of view. President Rouhani was elected. He is a conservative cleric, but he does – it appear – want to create some openings for Iran. He does want to get sanctions relief for his country. He does want to improve the economy. But how far he can go and what he can achieve I think remains to be seen.
So we need to work hard to test this opening. When we had the UN General Assembly, which was, I think, the first effort by this new government at a charm offensive, we heard a lot of good words, but there were no actions. The Joint Plan of Action put some concrete steps on the table, and Iran has taken those concrete steps.
So again, as I said a few moments ago, this is ultimately about verify, verify, verify; that we want to see if Iran will take those concrete steps, if they are real, if they can be verified and monitor, and give us the certainty that – as much certainty as one can get – that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon and that their program is exclusively peaceful.
MS. HARF: We answered all your questions?
QUESTION: I just had –
MS. HARF: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Just when you got back to the whole issue of Congress and sanctions – sorry to (inaudible) – do you have any messages that you’d like to say to AIPAC?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: On?
QUESTION: On future sanctions, what can they (inaudible)?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, I’ve spoken quite directly to AIPAC. I’ve met with AIPAC. And they will have a vigorous debate, I’m sure, when they meet in Washington next week. And what I’ve said to them is I understand that sanctions with tremendous and terrific leadership by the United States Congress helped to bring Iran to the table. And I understand that it’s a little counterintuitive to believe that more of the same wouldn’t do more. But they are now at the negotiating table. We have taken a first step. We have verified the actions to date of that first step and will continue to do so.
We have an opportunity to see if we can get a comprehensive agreement to reach the objectives that I have laid out, and we have to give diplomacy a chance. And we believe very strongly that one of the reasons we are able to have the sanctions enforcement we have had is because the international community believes that we are committed to diplomacy in the first instance. And if we begin to take actions that look like it is putting new requirements on this diplomacy, we may lose the international cooperation we have had for that sanctions enforcement and the international community’s support for what we are trying to do. They will think, indeed, we have other objectives.
So we need to give this diplomacy a chance. We need to create the space for this diplomacy. And I would urge AIPAC to create this space. Yes, it’s fine for AIPAC to say – AIPAC will say whatever it wants to say. But it will be fine if AIPAC says if this doesn’t work, the Congress will take action, because the Congress will. And the Administration will support them to do so.
But that’s not where we are. Where we are now is trying to make this diplomacy work, this negotiation work with our partners – not only those in the room but throughout the world. And we should test this opportunity.
MS. HARF: Other questions? Yes.
QUESTION: Netanyahu said zero enrichment. What is your (inaudible)?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, what I said earlier. I think we all would prefer zero enrichment. I would prefer many things. I think that that is not likely, but we certainly have put it as an option on the table with Iran, because if they had international cooperation outside their country, that provides benefits to their country and to their people; it may be more economical than what they’re trying to do. So I understand the objective.
But as I said, there are other paths besides zero enrichment to ensuring that Iran won’t get a nuclear weapon and that their program is exclusively peaceful. But if they do have a domestic enrichment program at the end of this negotiation, it will be small, it will be limited, it will be highly constrained, it will be thoroughly verified. But we’re not there yet.
QUESTION: I don’t know if it’s in your jurisdiction, but can you say something about this investigation against those two arms – Israeli arms dealers that are arrested or I don't know if they were arrested (inaudible) Greece, and it was an American investigation?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I saw that report, and I think all I can say about it is the authorities, whether it’s here in my country, in Greece, wherever – because I don’t know all the details – I’m sure will do the appropriate investigation and take whatever action is appropriate. And that’s all I know about it – pretty much what you know about it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Daniel Ophir from Channel 1 Television. When you say that your international partners expect you to see the diplomatic way, you mean specifically like Russia, China? Who do you think --
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, my --
QUESTION: -- that might – you might lose their cooperation?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Look, everyone has had to swallow hard because these sanctions make it tough for everybody to do business. It makes it tough for our European partners to do business. They have put many constraints in place. So they have done so because they believed it was an important tool, but it’s not an ends in itself. Sanctions have never been an end in themselves. They have been a tool to get Iran to come to the table in a serious and focused way. We’re here now. We’re here now. So let’s see what we can get done. If we cannot get something done, we will all know what our options are.
MS. HARF: (Inaudible) last question? Is there anyone who hasn’t asked a question yet? Any final questions?
QUESTION: Yes, I have one.
MS. HARF: Barak, wrap it up here for us.
MS. HARF: Oh yeah, we have time. (Laughter.) The first press briefing I ended early.
QUESTION: (Off-mike.) (Laughter.) Two things.
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Sure.
QUESTION: First, you said that one aspect of the Iranian program was discussed in detail (inaudible).
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Many things were discussed in detail. What I said is there was an experts session that delved into some aspects.
QUESTION: You can elaborate?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: No. (Laughter.) But a good try.
MS. HARF: It was a good try.
QUESTION: Nice try. Yeah. (Laughter.) And the second thing about the military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program, is this – is it going to stay exclusively for IAEA (inaudible), or it will be also part of the (inaudible) talks?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, the Joint Plan of Action talks about – and I’ve said this before – past and present concerns, which is IAEA language for possible military dimensions. But what we have said to Iran is that – so it will have to be addressed in some way. What we have said to Iran, however, is that their primary focus here should be on doing what their job is with the International Atomic Energy Agency. I met with the director-general while I was with Vienna and his team. They are very much focused on working through PMD with Iran. And the more Iran can do with the IAEA, which is where this belongs, the more likely we will have a successful comprehensive agreement.
QUESTION: What can you say about the plutonium channel? Can you say the same thing that you just said about the enrichment, they can have something that is small, discrete --
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: We – there is – the Arak reactor is of concern. I’ve mentioned that before. And it is addressed in the Joint Plan of Action as something that must be resolved. And I think there are many ways to find the way forward on that facility.
QUESTION: You underlined twice, three times, that you need time and (inaudible). Are you giving us a hint, perhaps, you need more time?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: No. I mean I have to tell you, all of the members of the P5+1 – thank you. All of the members of the P5+1 and the European Union and Iran all are committed to getting this done by July 20th. We have to keep that pressure on ourselves. If we get to July 20th and we think we’re one week away, will we take that extra week? It’ll be by mutual consent that it – any additional time has to be by mutual consent. And the reason for that is so one side can’t use it as a stalling tactic or as a way to buy time tactic. So – but we are intent on working as quickly as we can, as intensively as we can, to get this done.
QUESTION: Why is the July 20th date (inaudible)?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, because that’s when the six months of the Joint Plan of Action is up. And there can be another six months, but by – only by mutual consent, by mutual agreement. So what I will say is we hope to get it done in that timeframe. That is our intent and that is our goal.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: You announced at the end of talks that the EU foreign policy chief will be traveling to Tehran at the beginning of March. Do you think we’ll be – we can anticipate some kind of similar visit from a senior U.S. official in the upcoming months? (Laughter.)
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I don’t have that on my schedule. And the United States and Iran have decades of mistrust, obviously, since Americans were taken hostage. And so it’s going to take more than a day or a week or a month or many months to really overcome that level of mistrust, let alone all of the things that we talked about, which are of great concern to the United States beyond the nuclear concerns. So right now we’re focused on getting this agreement, and that’s the priority.
MS. HARF: Okay. We’ll do one more. That’ll make it an even 20 questions. Anyone?
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Or not.
MS. HARF: Or not. Barak, I know you have another one. Come on.
QUESTION: I always have one. (Laughter.)
On what you just said, I had the feeling, at least in Vienna, that there’s some kind of – that a lot of the barriers are down, and even on a person-to-person basis (inaudible) there’s more trust between the negotiators than there was, let’s say, at the beginning of the Geneva talks.
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, certainly, one would hope that we know each other a little bit better, we can listen to each other a little bit better, we understand each other a little bit better. But that is a long way still, Barak, from what I hope we get to someday, which is a more normal relationship. But that more normal relationship is going to take considerable time.
MS. HARF: Thank you so much, everyone, for coming in and for your questions.
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Again, this was all on the record. And I know you have your folks here, but I’m always happy to help as well on Iran-related questions. And come to Vienna. We have some fun there. And thanks so much. (Laughter.)
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Thank you all very much.
QUESTION: Thank you.
UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Take care.