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Iran: 'A deal is on the table and it can be done.'

Foreign Secretary William Hague has spoken about the progress of talks on Iran's nuclear programme in an interview with the BBC today.

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Foreign Secretary William Hague:

Good morning. Well, there are still some gaps – they’re narrow gaps. You ask, ‘what went wrong’? I would say that a great deal went right. This is a very difficult negotiation, but it’s fundamental to international peace and security over the next few years so we have to persist.

These talks have been very detailed; they’ve been about every aspect of Iran’s nuclear programme; they have made a lot of progress, and there’s no doubt, as Secretary Kerry said here during the night, that the parties are closer together; we’re all closer together than before we had these talks.

So we haven’t been wasting our time but it is a formidably difficult negotiation, of course, and we are going to reconvene these talks in ten days time, here in Geneva, on the 20th November, and try to maintain that momentum. It’s vital to keep the momentum, and there is a deal there. A deal is on the table, and it can be done.

Andrew Marr:

Would it be right to say that the big problem is proving that enrichment for civil purposes can’t be used for nuclear weapons, and that actually nailing that is the big problem you’ve got?

WH: Yes well, that is right. Of course that is a very big problem. There is a lack of trust, of course, about Iran’s intentions and nuclear programme. Over many years, they have hidden things from the rest of the world; they have disregarded the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, and disregarded the International Atomic Energy Agency. So there’s bound to be a terrible lack of trust, and that means that we have to go over every detail of it; it means that we have to look at every aspect of the programme; we have to be sure exactly what would happen in a deal with Iran.

But one of the other good things about this is that the so-called ‘E3 plus 3’ countries – the six countries negotiating with Iran, of whom we are one – are clearly united at the end of the negotiations, last night. The final meeting that we had in the early hours of this morning; we were all saying the same thing to Iran, and supporting the same deal that can be done, and that is something for the Iranians to think carefully about over the next few days.

AM: You’ve looked into the eyes of the Iranian negotiators now for a long time. Do you trust them?

WH: Well, let me say that we have a good relationship, a working relationship, an amicable, personal relationship with Iranian foreign minister, Mr Zarif. He’s a tough negotiator, but he is very constructive. I do believe that he wants to solve this problem; that he is out to do a deal; he would like to do a deal with the international community. After all, Iran is under very, very serious pressure. This is one of those cases where sanctions applied by a large part of the world are having a big impact: it is putting the Iranian leadership and the Iranian economy under very serious pressure and as long as there isn’t a deal that pressure is going to continue. So I do believe in his sincerity about it – let me put it that way.

AM: OK.

WH: But there is a complex power structure in Iran, and many different views about this in Iran just as there are in our own countries.

AM: And in Israel this morning there will be relief and delight that there hasn’t been a deal. The Prime Minister there described it as a potentially, ‘a black day for the world’, and they are terrified of the Iranian bomb. Do you think that, ‘a’: the deal is going to happen within the next few weeks – whatever they say – and, ‘b’: you will be able to get clear guarantees that will satisfy people like the Israeli government that there will not be an Iranian bomb anytime soon?

WH: Well, on the question about, ‘will it happen in the next few weeks’: there is a good chance of that. But, as I say, it is a formidably difficult negotiation – I can’t say exactly when it will conclude. But we will be trying again on the 20th and 21st November – our negotiators will be trying again. So we will keep an enormous amount of energy and persistence behind solving this. Will there be a deal that will please everybody? Well, no it won’t, because compromises will have to be made. But I have discussed things yesterday with Israeli ministers, on the telephone, while I’ve been here in Geneva, and put the case for the kind of deal that we are looking at making. And it is in the interests of the whole world, including Israel, including all nations of the world for us to reach a diplomatic agreement that we can be confident in on this issue which, otherwise, threatens the world with nuclear proliferation and with conflict in the future.

Published 10 November 2013
Last updated 12 November 2013 + show all updates
  1. Added translation
  2. First published.