VIENNA—Secretary of State John Kerry informed reporters on Thursday that nuclear talks with Iran would continue past any deadline and only come to a conclusion when the Obama administration feels that no more "progress" is being made.
Kerry’s announcement—which was vague about details or a future timeframe for the talks—appeared to annoy some reporters in the audience, with one shouting at Kerry, "How long is this going to take?"
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Deadlines—and the administration’s failure to adhere to them—have become a major theme in recent weeks as negotiators prepare to blow past a third self-imposed deadline of July 10.
Should this occur, Congress would be given 60, rather than 30 days to review and potentially reject any deal that is struck.
"Let me assure you we would not be here continuing to negotiate just for the sake of negotiating," Kerry said. We’re here because we believe we’re making real progress."
Kerry then claimed that he is prepared to walk away from the talks with no deal. That threat has been repeated multiple times by senior administration officials in recent days, though they continue to negotiate with no final deadline.
"As I’ve said many times, and have discussed with President Obama last night, we are not going to sit at the negotiating table forever," Kerry said. "We also recognize that we shouldn’t get up and leave because the clock strikes midnight."
Iran and the United States will not be rushed by these self-imposed deadlines, Kerry said.
"We will not rush and we will not be rushed and we won’t let ourselves be rushed through any aspect of this," he said, adding that the "quality of the agreement" is the most pressing issue.
"The simple fact is despite all the progress we’ve made, some of the tough issues remain unresolved," Kerry explained. He would not elaborate on the schedule for talks or for how long the could continue.
Earlier on Thursday, Iranian negotiators hinted via state-controlled press outlets that talks could wrap up by early Friday, followed by a ceremony announcing the deal.
However, just a few hours later, Iranian state-controlled media accounts claimed that talks could continue through the next four days.
Negotiations have been stuck on recent demands by Tehran that the United Nations lift a longstanding arms embargo against it.
Some reports have indicated that Russia may be behind the new demand, as it stands to benefit from any future arms deals with Iran. Russian and Iranian officials announced over the weekend a deal in which Moscow would provide the Islamic Republic with a range of naval supplies.
"Talks between the Iranian delegation and the Russian side were held at the International Maritime Defense Show (IMDS) in St. Petersburg on Saturday. They spoke about boosting bilateral military-technical cooperation, including on deliveries of a wide range of naval equipment and armaments," an Iranian military official was quoted as saying in the country’s state-run press.
Western sources in Vienna familiar with the negotiations have indicated that the United States would help water down United Nations Security Council resolutions preventing Iran from constructing ballistic missiles.
While some restrictions would remain in place, the arms embargo would be altered to effectively permit Iran to acquire outside weapons within a few years.
On the ballistic missile front, those sanctions could be rolled into larger nuclear sanctions, meaning they would eventually be lifted under the terms of any deal.