Iranian officials reportedly have confronted their U.S. counterparts twice over an open letter from Republican senators to Tehran that warned any agreement on Iran’s nuclear program would be unlikely to last beyond President Barack Obama’s term of office.
The Associated Press, citing a senior U.S. official, reported that the letter, which was signed by 47 of 54 GOP members, first came up in negotiations on Sunday and was raised again Monday in discussions led by Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
Zarif was quoted by Iranian state media after the meeting as saying the topics included the potential speed of a softening of U.S. economic sanctions and the new issue of the letter from the senators. “It is necessary that the stance of the U.S. administration be defined about this move,” he was quoted as saying.
Kerry and Zarif met for nearly five hours in Lausanne, the start of several planned days of discussions. Most of the Iranians then departed for Brussels, where they were to meet with European negotiators.
In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that “we are entering a crucial time, a crucial two weeks.” And German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that after “more than 10 years of negotiations, we should seize this opportunity.”
“There are areas where we’ve made progress, areas where we have yet to make any progress,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said. “But the fact that we’re all here talking shows the commitment on both sides to try to reach an agreement.”
In Lausanne, the U.S. official wouldn’t say how much time the sides spent talking about the letter drafted seven days ago by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. The Iranians have called the letter a propaganda ploy, and Zarif joked last week that some U.S. legislators didn’t understand their own Constitution. The Obama administration has called the letter “ill timed” and “ill advised,” coming weeks before the deadline for a preliminary agreement with Iran on its nuclear program.
Cotton isn’t backing down. In his maiden speech in the Senate, Cotton reiterated his view that the deal being discussed would pave Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb.
“Iran is an outlaw regime. … Unsurprising, Iran is only growing bolder and more aggressive as America retreats from the Middle East,” Cotton said, adding that Iranian leaders continue to call for Israel’s elimination and that Iran is meddling in other nations, including Syria and Iraq.
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