German FM: Iran letter 'not helpful’
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was reacting to a letter signed by 47 Senate Republicans warning Tehran that any nuclear deal it strikes with President Barack Obama will be non-binding and easily undone.
Germany is among the six nations conducting talks with Iran in an effort to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. In addition to the United States, the others are France, Britain, Russia, and China.
Steinmeier elaborated in German-language remarks to his country’s media this morning.
“It’s not just a matter of U.S. politics. It has an impact on the talks in Geneva. Because now of course mistrust is growing on the Iranian side about whether our side is really serious about negotiations,” according to a translation from German network Deutsche Welle.
According to sources close to the negotiations, the letter may have given Iran more leverage in the nuclear talks.
“The game that was played in the past is that we are credible and the Iranians are not credible,” said one. “The letter is creating the advantage for the Iranians. It is hurting our position in the negotiations.”
One of the sources predicted that the letter would be the first issue raised by Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, in his next meeting with nuclear negotiators which will be held in Brussels on Monday.
Zarif, considered a relative moderate within the Iranian system, is expected to argue that the letter undermines his ability to sell a nuclear deal to Iranian hard-liners already distrustful towards the U.S.
Speaking before parliament on Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned that the Senate GOP letter “could become a spanner in the works” of a nuclear deal, using a British term for a wrench. He added that Republican opposition to a deal “could have an unpredictable effect on leadership opinion and public opinion in Tehran.”
POLITICO reported earlier this week that a nuclear deal appears to be within reach but that achieving a framework deal by the end of March will be difficult. Several Senate Democrats have said that they will vote for GOP-backed legislation which Obama officials insist will blow up the talks if a framework is not struck by March 24.
Hammond expressed doubt about that deadline: “You have to make some really quite heroic assumptions to get to the point where it is all agreed in the next two or three weeks,” he said.
“There is reason for cautious optimism that signals are coming out of Tehran that there is a desire to find a deal,” the British diplomat added, even though negotiators remain stalled on some key issues. “But compared to where we were when we left Vienna in November, I think we have actually made significant progress over the last few weeks, although it is still very challenging.”
The March 24 deadline may be even tighter than it appears. On March 21, Iran marks the Persian New Year holiday of Nowruz — a date somewhat like Christmas in the U.S. in that business in the country will cease for several days. Experts expect Iranian officials to take a break of at least three days from the talks, making the effective deadline March 20.
While aware of the deadline set by congressional Democrats, the State Department maintains that its goal is to achieve a political framework by March 31, with complex technical details to be completed by the end of June, when a current interim nuclear agreement with Iran will expire.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/iran-letter-germany-frank-walter-steinmeier-116017.html#ixzz3UCQGVQ5E