Over the past year, the United States – in coordination with the European Union and our P5+1 partners – has undertaken an unprecedented diplomatic effort with the Islamic Republic of Iran to achieve a comprehensive solution to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. We reached an initial milestone in November when all of the parties agreed to the Joint Plan of Action, under which Iran committed to halt the progress of its nuclear program, roll it back in key respects, and allow for unprecedented access for international inspectors in exchange for a modest amount of sanctions relief.
As verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has met its commitments under that initial accord – ceasing its enrichment of uranium to higher levels; taking steps to neutralize its more dangerous stockpile of nuclear material; refraining from installing more centrifuges, including its more advanced models; halting advances at its Arak reactor; and submitting to broader and far more frequent inspections of its facilities. Meanwhile, the relief provided by the P5+1 and EU has been limited, and the overwhelming majority of our sanctions remain in force.
By preventing Iran from making progress toward a nuclear weapon, by making its nuclear program more transparent, and by keeping the pressure on Iran, the Joint Plan of Action achieved its broader purpose – providing time and space to work toward a long-term solution that would ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful. Over the past six months, our diplomats have engaged in intensive negotiations with Iran to reach that goal.
Our negotiators have made progress in some areas and, while real gaps remain, there is a credible prospect for a comprehensive deal. Because of this – and because Iran has upheld its commitments under the initial accord – we agreed today to extend the Joint Plan of Action to November 24. This extension will allow us to continue the negotiations while ensuring that the progress of Iran’s nuclear program remains halted during the negotiations. The issues before us are complex, and we have more work to do to resolve them. Our goal is clear – to reach a comprehensive deal that addresses the various pathways Iran could take to obtain a nuclear weapon, by imposing strict limits on Iran’s enrichment capacity and facilities, eliminating our proliferation concerns with its Arak reactor, and establishing additional verification measures that will help us detect any covert activities or attempts to breakout as quickly as possible.
Throughout this process, we have consulted regularly with Congress, whose efforts have been critical in supporting this diplomatic opportunity. We have also engaged closely with our regional partners and allies – particularly Israel and our Gulf partners – given our shared interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and the United States’ enduring commitment to regional security. Lastly, we have vigorously enforced the sanctions regime that remains in place, and will continue to do so throughout the duration of this extension.
Going forward, we have an opportunity to achieve a lasting, diplomatic solution that will resolve one of the most pressing national security issues of our time. We will not accept anything less than a comprehensive resolution that meets our objectives, which is why it is necessary for negotiations to continue. By moving forward, we will be able to preserve international unity, continue to halt the progress of Iran’s nuclear program, and pursue a comprehensive resolution that is coming into shape.