Background Briefing on P5+1 Trilateral Meeting With EU High Representative Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif
MODERATOR: Thank you. This is, as it always is, on background, senior Administration officials. You all know, I think, our officials up here. I will turn it over to [Senior Administration Official] in a second to get some opening remarks, and then we will do questions and answers. Again, background, no embargo, senior Administration officials.
With that --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi, everyone. Thank you all for coming tonight. Hope you’ve had just a wonderful UNGA week. I’ve been here since last Wednesday, so I’ve just had a great time. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: On that note, we’re just going to leave.
QUESTION: Said with no irony. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you for your flexibility with change – with the change in scheduling from the backgrounder last night. We thought it made most sense to read out the trilateral meetings we had with the European Union and Iran at the conclusion of them, rather than in the middle of them.
We just finished a two-hour trilateral between Secretary Kerry, Foreign Minister Zarif, and High Representative Ashton. They do this just the three of them. This meeting followed on the discussions they had last night. Indeed, the discussions this week have been – over the last several days – have been very intense, have happened in all manner of format. There have been bilaterals, trilaterals, many meetings of heads of state with President Rouhani, meetings by every delegation bilaterally with Minister Zarif. There have been staggering numbers of hours among experts because these are highly technical negotiations, as I think you all know well. And there has been an enormous amount of work that has been undertaken.
Iran’s leaders, as I’ve said to you before, have said that Iran does not seek to acquire a nuclear weapon. These negotiations are about Iran making commitments to verifiable actions that can assure the world that indeed Iran’s program is and will remain exclusively peaceful. In these negotiations, we are seeking to close down Iran’s pathways to nuclear materials for a nuclear weapon: the uranium enrichment pathway through Natanz and Fordow; the plutonium path through Arak; and the covert path through hidden facilities, if they exist.
Let me talk a little about this week a little bit more and what we’ve done to try to meet this – meet them. We have not come here tonight to announce we’ve reached agreement. We did not expect to reach agreement this week. I looked back at what I said at the time of the start of these, and I said, “Would I like at the end of this week to have a broad understanding on all major issues, even if we have to use the next October, November writing all the details? Sure, I’d love to be there. Will we be there at the end of the week? I don’t know. It’s tough, very tough.” I said, “We’re discussing all the parameters of the issues. And I think this is an opportunity because we have everybody here.”
And the way I would summarize this week is that we do not have an understanding on all major issues. We have some understandings that are helpful to move this process forward. We have an enormous amount of details still to work through because it is highly, highly, highly technical. We have still some very, very difficult understandings yet to reach. Everyone here has to make difficult decisions, and we continue to look for Iran to make some of the ones necessary for getting to a comprehensive agreement.
We had this trilateral ministerial because we believed that it was time to follow up on some of the work that we have been doing, take stock of where we were, and to think about how to move forward. Because there are so many issues on the table, this is not something that gives itself easily to a one-hour meeting. Even the three hours that the High Representative Catherine Ashton, who leads these negotiations, and the Secretary Kerry and Minister Zarif had cannot get to every issue that needs to be discussed, even in three hours.
I believe that this week did help accomplish using the opportunity for ministers to have direct discussions with each other and with Minister Zarif, for heads of state to have some conversations, for other countries to talk to Iran and to let them know that it is not only about the P5+1, but the entire world wants to ensure that Iran’s program is exclusively peaceful, and urge all of us to take this historic opportunity and get this very difficult work done.
I know there have been some questions and even perhaps some confusion about whether we were scheduled to have a ministerial meeting with the entire P5+1 and somehow that got canceled. Nothing was canceled. The High Representative had asked ministers to look for a timeslot that they all might be here; some ministers weren’t here till the end of the week, other ministers had to leave early for a variety of reasons. These are jam-packed weeks. I think I had six bilaterals today that had nothing to do with Iran. So the schedules here are, as I think we’ve all jokingly called diplomatic speed dating. And so I do think --
QUESTION: Any success? (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: At any rate – and at the end, the High Representative believed that there really wasn’t a need for it, that everyone had had a chance to have the discussions they needed to have in a variety of formats, and because some ministers had to leave early, others didn’t come until late, that it was going to be very difficult to make it happen.
We have about eight more weeks until our November 24th deadline for an agreement this complicated. That’s not a staggering amount of time. The gaps are still serious. We will continue the very hard work over the next weeks. There is still adequate time to work through these issues and arrive at a comprehensive agreement that can give the international community assurance that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon.
So now we are all returning to capitals to absorb the work we did this week. There is a lot to think about, an awful lot. And then we will regroup with Iran.
So let me stop there.
MODERATOR: Great. And we can do some questions now. Who wants to start? Yes, Rosie.
QUESTION: Can you --
MODERATOR: Oh, and identify yourself. I know we know most of you, but --
QUESTION: I’m Rosie Gray with Buzzfeed.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi.
QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit of, like, what are the biggest sticking points right at this moment? And how big of the gaps – how big are they in terms of being big gaps?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think most of you are used to the fact that I talk about very few details here. I think that it is no secret that at the core of this agreement is where Iran is, and the Iranians have spoken to this themselves, on enrichment and their capacity, and they have a concern about where we are on sanctions relief. And these are issues that are under great discussion in tremendous detail because it is very complex. In addition, of course, we have to get agreements on any number of other items, from all of the facilities to the infrastructure, to research and development to transparency monitoring, the duration, PMD. You all know the list; it’s quite long.
MODERATOR: Yes. Laurence Norman.
QUESTION: Hi. I have two questions, if I may. First of all, you talked about creative ideas last week and putting them on the table. How receptive were the Iranians to those creative ideas?
And secondly, (inaudible) you talked about some areas of progress (inaudible). But basically, can you – I know you can’t tell us where exactly, but can you quantify that a little bit? I mean, you’re saying there are still serious gaps here. Is that progress on the other issues? Was it on the main issues? Is there anything (inaudible)?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: First of all, I’d written myself a note and I was remiss. I had wanted to start this briefing by noting that today is the two-year anniversary of Pastor Abedini’s detention in Iran. And we again appeal to Iran to let him come home. There is no reason for him to remain detained in Iran. The same is true for Amir Hekmati, for other Americans who are detained. And obviously, we hope that Iran will finally provide help and cooperation to help us to locate Robert Levinson and bring him home, who has been missing for seven years and ought to be with his family.
I will say just in advance of questions about this that every time I meet with the Iranians and more than one occasion during these 10 or 11 or 12 days that I’ve been here, we have discussed the American citizens. I know there were many advocates because we were here in New York who also raised this with the Iranians at various events where Americans showed up, so they heard questions. We also are obviously very concerned about Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter who remains detained and as far as I know without charges having been brought. We believe he should be home without any delay. And the Secretary of State has raised this directly bilaterally with Minister Zarif, and we will do everything we can to bring every American home.
Now to answer your questions, Laurence, when I say creative ideas, I want people to understand that everything we do must assure us that Iran can’t acquire a nuclear weapon and their program is exclusively peaceful. And no creative idea is going to cross the threshold of choices that will not meet those objectives. But this is a complicated negotiation, and if we don’t come up with some ways forward we will not be able to get to that agreement. And so everyone needs to be as proficient as we possibly can be to figure out whether there are ways to solve problems that still meet those objectives.
In terms of quantifying, one can’t. I’ve said to you all many times that we could get to 98 percent and that last 2 percent could be so critical to meeting our objectives there is no agreement.
QUESTION: Sorry. I did ask about Iran’s receptiveness to the creative ideas, not just the creative --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, you know we have a lot of back and forth. Our experts go back and forth. They work through ideas, they work through problems. We consult back in our capitals. We have had tremendous technological help from our labs, which are some of the best in the world. That’s how highly technical these issues are. We have many experts throughout our government who have been helpful to us, and that is true with every delegation, because these are tough problems.
MODERATOR: Great. Yes, George.
QUESTION: George Jahn, AP.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi.
QUESTION: Two questions. Hi, thanks for doing this. There is a perception among some other delegations that the Americans have taken what were essentially multilateral negotiations and turned them into bilats. And not everybody is considering that a bad idea, but I’m just wondering if you could address that. Is everybody still fully involved in the process?
And the second question is French Foreign Minister Fabius basically said that the ministerial was canceled because there was nothing to talk about.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, on the --
QUESTION: He said it on the record.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On the first question, every single member of the P5+1 has had extensive discussions with Iran, and every set of experts have had extensive discussions with Iran during the days we’ve been here, let alone the time we were in – the 18 days we all lived in Vienna, and in between, between Vienna and New York. All delegations – the Russians, the Chinese, and each European country as well as the United States – has had a bilateral with Iran, as has the High Representative and her team. So everyone has stayed very engaged directly with Iran, with each other, experts with each other, in small groups, in large groups, in all kinds of different permutations, because that’s what it’s going to take to figure this out. Everybody brings different capabilities to this.
It is true that at times Iran wants to sit down with us because – and with the European Union, for that matter – because we hold the lion’s share of the sanctions. And so they want to know where we are and what we think. But the trilateral tonight was with the High Representative. She continues to lead this negotiation.
And on Fabius, I think there just was some confusion here. There was never a meeting scheduled and locked in. The High Representative’s office themselves have said that they asked each minister when they were available this week, when they would be here, and asked their schedulers when there might be a time slot, and that’s as far as it ever went because she just wanted to know. So was everybody going to be here at the beginning of the week, at the end of the week, should it make sense to do that?
But because everybody had so many other opportunities to have those conversations, nobody thought it made a lot of sense to have such a meeting.
MODERATOR: Yes, Scott Peterson.
QUESTION: Thanks. Scott Peterson from the Christian Science Monitor.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hello.
QUESTION: Have the Iranians put forward anything that you would consider to be creative solutions or creative thinking from their side, first?
And second, when you say that it’s really the ball is in Iran’s court, that they need to make decisions and make tough decisions to make this happen, we were all sitting at a President Rouhani press conference a few hours ago and he said precisely the same thing about the United States and the West --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’m shocked. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Exactly. None of us should be shocked because for three years both sides have been saying exactly this. So I mean, how – I mean, are we further along in butting heads on that, or because – who’s going to have to make the real decisions on this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’d say everybody has brought ideas to the table. And as I said, there’s a lot of back and forth. When our experts get together, teams bring nuclear scientists. They approach problem solving probably a little differently than people like me do. They like to dig in with each other and discuss technical details and different engineering possibilities in ways that I’ve come to understand more of it, but they still talk in ways I can’t quite comprehend. So I think that’s very useful and very helpful. In scientific communities around the world I think this is a common kind of thought process.
Yes, everybody has to make tough decisions here. And yes, I’m sure that Iran feels we’re the ones who have to make the decisions, and we feel they’re the ones that have to make some critical decisions. At the end of the day, we will all have to decide whether the comprehensive agreement will provide the assurance to the international community that we are all looking for and that I am sure President Rouhani heard from any number of countries while he was here.
MODERATOR: Great, thanks. Laura Rozen.
QUESTION: Thanks for doing this. Laura Rozen from Al-Monitor. When you all were reading out the trilateral last night, you said that the purpose of it was to take stock kind of, of what’s been going on the past week and the path forward. Can you give us – besides going back to capitals and digesting all the stuff you’ve talked about, give us a sense of what might be happening over the next – even the near term. And do you expect a – bilaterals to try to advance – or trilaterals to advance this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can’t answer – I truly came almost directly from the trilateral here. I think we all need to have some consultations amongst ourselves and obviously with our P5+1 partners about when we next should meet as the P5+1, when we should next meet with Iran. In terms of U.S. bilaterals, I would assume we will continue to have them, just as I would assume that every other member of the P5+1 will continue to have them. They’re useful, they’re helpful, and we all are very transparent with each other as we share what comes out of our bilaterals. We have a process that the High Representative leads to do so, so that when we go into the next meeting everybody knows what has happened in the last meeting, whoever had it. That’s very helpful.
So I think we – I know that we all have to go back to capitals, absorb this, discuss it within our own governments what might be doable here, possible here. And I would expect in the near term that we will continue our meetings.
QUESTION: Thank you. Could I just ask a brief follow-up? One of your counterparts in the 5+1 told a few of us today that there is an expectation that some decision may be coming from Iran or we’re expecting some decision by Iran.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Really?
QUESTION: Yes. I don’t know --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, ultimately we will have to have one.
QUESTION: Are you expecting something to come, or just you’re hoping that the --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It’s not about expectation or hope. It’s what’s going to be required in order to get to a comprehensive agreement.
MODERATOR: Great. Yes, the gentleman right here.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Two questions. Will the technical talks continue this week or the following week?
And secondly, maybe too early to say is there going to be an extension, but do you have enough time? Because this is beginning to sound like the early summer where the July deadline was coming and everyone said there’s no extension, but when it came, oh, they have gaps. Have you closed enough of the gaps from July to actually say, well, in two months’ time we’re going to get there, or are we thinking we’re not going to get there?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Negotiations are not linear processes, and a negotiation this complex certainly is not, where everything you do here will affect everything over here, will affect everything over here, and it all fits together. You all know the famous Rubik’s cube analogy here.
So you can’t think of it in those linear terms as if you’ll get to this day and you’ll get the decision you need. It is a set of concentric circles and also interlocking circles. It truly is multidimensional. So you can’t think of it as – you can have all of the pieces on the table, which we do. All of the pieces are on the table. We all know the choices and decisions that have to get made. And at some point, the pieces will fall in place or it will become quite clear they cannot. I think everyone’s intent is to get to a comprehensive agreement by November 24th. We still believe it is possible to do. I believe everybody could probably write their version of how those pieces fall into place; we just all have to get to one.
QUESTION: The technical --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, technical talks? I would expect there will be continued technical talks.
QUESTION: In New York?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There may be some additional tomorrow just to wrap up sort of the technical talks that have been happening this week. And when further technical talks will be scheduled – again, we’re all going to go back to our capitals, talk to our governments. Even though we all had some of our heads of state here, it’s not like we got time to sit down and have a chat. People were too busy.
MODERATOR: Yes, right here.
QUESTION: Hi. Oren Dorell from USA Today. I was wondering – President Rouhani talked a lot about terrorism today, and I was wondering in these trilateral meetings if that came up at all, the fight with ISIL, and in what context in relation to the nuclear talks.
And also, how long were they – did they meet in the trilateral meetings? I know today was a couple hours --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Couple hours, and yesterday was a little over an hour.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So I said three hours altogether, the trilateral, over – yes, between yesterday and today. Maybe a little bit – I guess three, three and a half, maybe.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Something like that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don’t think anyone could be at the UN General Assembly and not talk about ISIL. The President of the United States made what I believe was an extraordinarily powerful speech about the threat that ISIL poses to the entire world, and was resolute in the necessity to degrade and then defeat ISIL. Besides doing the nuclear negotiation, I also had countless bilateral and group meetings, and nothing I was in – nothing – did not discuss ISIL, either as the substance of the meeting, on the sidelines of the meeting, in the hallways of the meetings. It is clearly a very high issue here, as is Ebola, peacekeeping, and a lot of other issues that are going on in the world. But ISIL has clearly been high on the agenda here this week.
So in the margins of our discussions with Iran, of course we have talked about it – talked about President Obama’s speech, talked about President Rouhani’s speech, talked about many other leaders’ speeches. We know that British ministers had to leave for the vote on Iraq in the British parliament. So it affected many things that happened here, so of course. And while the trilateral occurred tonight, a few of us from the European Union, Iran, and the United States sat in a separate room, hanging out in case our bosses needed us.
But the issue around ISIL is separate and apart from the nuclear negotiation. We keep it quite separate. And as you know and as you’ve heard the White House say and the State Department say and my colleagues say, we do not coordinate with Iran on the fight against ISIL. We all care that ISIL be degraded and defeated, but we do not coordinate.
QUESTION: So some – a lot of people are saying that what the Iranians are saying sounds like “help us here, we’ll help you there.” Is there any hint of that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. These are two separate issues. The nuclear negotiation is being negotiated on its own terms.
MODERATOR: Yes. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Keith Wales from French newspaper Le Monde. Thank you for your time. Do you have the impression that the French is trying for a more cautious line in this negotiation compared to other members of the P5+1?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I believe that we are all on the same line, every member of the P5+1. We have stayed extraordinarily united through very difficult issues. When we were in Vienna you were all asking me about Ukraine. Now you’re asking me about ISIL. Who knows what will come next month? I can hardly wait. (Laughter.) But --
QUESTION: It could be pretty bad. (Laughter.) But as bad as it is, it can get worse.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: But we have stayed quite united and quite focused with the absolute same bottom line: Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon and its program must be exclusively peaceful, and we must know that it is. And so no, I don’t believe anybody has a tougher line. We all have the same tough line. We all have the same tough line.
MODERATOR: We’re going to do a few more. Elliot, yes. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, thanks. Elliot Waldman with TBS News in Japan. I was wondering if you could address these comments that came from the U.S. side yesterday regarding trade delegations to Iran and how, like, when the agreement is reached the world will flood into Iran. I was interested in that because – well, are you now sort of encouraging these kinds of delegations as like – as making them more – a potential agreement more durable?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think – what I meant by that is that there’s no question that if we get a comprehensive agreement and if Iran complies, as it has done in the JPOA, to all that it has committed to do, that Iran will begin to end its isolation from the world community, because the sanctions in the first instance will be suspended and ultimately lifted. The sanctions against Iran will be lifted. It will take some time, but they will be lifted. And so when – as that happens and Iran opens up, then, I think, there is a great possibility of trade. There is a large middle class in Iran. We’ve seen trade delegations go to Iran, but they have not consummated deals because sanctions will not allow them to do so.
So this will take some time, but there is a future here if, in fact, there is a comprehensive agreement, and I think probably a very positive one for the Iranian people. So it is an opportunity I would urge them to urge their leaders to take.
QUESTION: I guess the reason I was – sorry, the reason I was asking is because previously, the U.S. has frowned on these kinds of trips being made. But --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right, and I’m not encouraging people to take them now.
QUESTION: Okay. All right.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What I was saying – and I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear. What I was saying is that, indeed, if there is a comprehensive agreement over time when sanctions are suspended and then ultimately lifted, it will be a different situation for Iran.
Now, the U.S. will still have a trade embargo, because that does not relate to the nuclear negotiations. That happened in 1979. But all – ultimately, the economic sanctions we have, the secondary banking sanctions we have, the oil sanctions we have – ultimately, they will all be lifted, and that will make an enormous difference.
MODERATOR: Matt, did you have a quick one? Hold on.
QUESTION: Yeah. I just wondered if – real quick. And I’m just wondering if you can say if the Iranians have – what the response was on the non-nuclear stuff, both on ISIL, ISIS, and the detained Americans – what their response has been when it’s been raised.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On ISIL, it’s not about us raising. It’s about just the discussions that we have because we talk about what’s happening in the world.
QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean, they say these are bad dudes and they need to be (inaudible)?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think I’d say you should ask them what they say. I’m not going to quote them, Matt.
QUESTION: But – I mean, you have a general – you have a general agreement on that, right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Do they believe that ISIL is a threat?
QUESTION: Yes. You have a general --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Do they believe ISIL is a --
QUESTION: You have – they don’t say “we don’t think that there is much of a” – or “we think they’re doing the wrong thing.”
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think everybody in the world understands that ISIL is a threat.
QUESTION: Okay. And on the --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And on the American citizens, I’m not going to discuss in any detail the substance of our discussions about American citizens, because I want to respect the privacy and I want to respect the families who so care about what is happening to their family members. We do report back to families, but that really is for them.
MODERATOR: Claudia, yes, and then – yeah, sorry. Yes, thank you for (inaudible). Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Very quick factual thing: Where – what will be the next venue for these talks? And I wanted to ask you about – a question about history, because I think perhaps North Korea would feel things are unfair reading the news coming out of these so far. In a previous administration, senior administration officials were working very hard on the premise that there should be no uranium enrichment and that there should be a missile deal, and what we’re reading now is lots of uranium enrichment and missiles off the table. What’s changed? Why is --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’m sorry, I didn’t understand the question.
QUESTION: When – in a previous administration – I’m trying to avoid using names --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- senior administration officials were working to stop North Korea from getting nuclear weapons.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah.
QUESTION: One condition was no uranium enrichment, and then there was great effort put into trying to accomplish a missile deal. We’re now reading that there will be substantial uranium enrichment and the missiles are off the table. If these accounts in the press are correct --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In North Korea or in Iran?
QUESTION: In Iran.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I see. Okay.
QUESTION: In other words, we’re now seeing a nuclear deal where these – everything seems completely switched around. What has changed? Why should there be completely different circumstances here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, they are completely different circumstances, and every negotiation is sui generis. It’s impossible to make comparisons between the two.
But I would also say your premise is not correct. In the North Korean negotiation, that actually wasn’t the terms of the negotiation as I recall history, so we can have that discussion some time. But on the Iran negotiation, what we have said is that we will consider a very limited enrichment program for peaceful purposes that is highly monitored for a substantial period of time as part of a very complicated and detailed agreement that includes facilities, infrastructure, concerns about delivery systems addressed as well in whatever way we possibly can. So I don’t agree with how you describe what we’re trying to do on the Iran negotiation.
QUESTION: Uranium – okay, second – a later North Korea deal. But what I’m asking is why are these conditions so very different? In fact, they’re even different from the Security Council resolutions, which calls for much stricter terms than what are being --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well no, not actually.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The Security Council resolution says that Iran would suspend enrichment, after which these sanctions would disappear. There are many ways to deal with ensuring that Iran’s program is exclusively peaceful. That’s why it’s the P5+1 doing these negotiations as representatives, as mandated by the Security Council in a resolution. And we will, of course, return to the Security Council when we have this comprehensive agreement.
MODERATOR: And we don’t know where the next round of talks will be --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, yeah.
MODERATOR: -- to answer your first question.
Last question we’re going to do tonight is from Kim Ghattas of the BBC.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hello.
QUESTION: Two very quick ones. Good evening. Thank you for doing this.
I just wanted to clarify – follow up on a question that was asked before. In the time that you have left until November 24th, if everybody is able to budge here and there, is it technically feasible to get to the agreement in the remaining time? I’m talking about the – not the will, but the technical aspects.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, it is technically possible, and it is why the experts having spent gazillions of hours with each other is so important, because there is not a potential annex to this agreement about which there has not been discussion.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So as I said, tons of stuff is on the table. An enormous amount of work has been done. That’s not to say more isn’t needed. There will be until we get to the end of this, but a huge amount of work has been done so that the elements would be understood and known to accomplish what we seek.
QUESTION: And then on ISIL, if you’re not coordinating militarily, what is the tenor of your conversation? I mean, like Matt said, are they saying “yeah, they’re bad guys” and you roll your eyes and say “yeah, yeah, they’re really bad guys”? (Laughter.) I mean, what are you talking about?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, these aren’t extensive conversations. These just aren’t extensive conversations. So – we are all diplomatic professionals. We are here at the United Nations General Assembly; it would be sort of peculiar for us not to talk about what this minister said or that minister said or that head of state said in their speech at the UN General Assembly. It would just be sort of odd.
QUESTION: I see. So that’s the tenor?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, that’s the tenor.
QUESTION: Are the talks done? This --
MODERATOR: This round.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This round.
QUESTION: -- is over?
MODERATOR: So there may be some – as she said, some experts meetings finishing up tomorrow. But there’s not going to be another plenary session, right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Correct.
QUESTION: And was there any secret Rouhani meeting with anyone from your side or from our side? (Laughter.) I know nothing was planned.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not that I know about. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: Thank you all. Again, senior Administration officials. This was on background. I appreciate everyone’s flexibility. Please now go have one or five drinks. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’m going to.
MODERATOR: And we will keep you posted on planning for the next round.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah.
MODERATOR: I know there’s a lot of questions. As soon as we know anything, you will as well.