Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday announced a seven-month extension of the multiparty diplomatic talks to reach an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. The news came after the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and representatives from the European Union were unable to reach an agreement with Iran by the Nov. 24 deadline that had been set for a settement. Kerry said the goal is now a “political agreement” within four months, with details to be dealt with afterward. “In these last days in Vienna, we have made real and substantial progress, and we have seen new ideas surface,” Kerry told reporters in the Austrian capital. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has negotiated with “good faith and … seriousness of purpose,” but there remain “significant points of disagreement” between the sides, said Kerry. Despite the impasse, Kerry maintained the world is safer today as a result of last year’s interim agreement with Iran, and Iran has halted progress on its nuclear program in areas from developing reactor technology to enriching uranium. Today, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have “daily access” to Iran’s facilities, and have certified the country is living up to its obligations under the interim agreement, he said. The pro-rated sanctions relief, part of the interim agreement that is worth approximately $700 million a month, will remain in place, said Kerry. This has already attracted congressional criticism. A comprehensive agreement, however, would ensure further discussion of sanctions relief, noted Kerry. (Kerry transcript)
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.