French say accord must include transparency on Tehran’s future nuclear activities
LAUSANNE, Switzerland— Laurence Norman reports: Several European foreign ministers arrived in Switzerland for nuclear talks with Iran on Saturday, with Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier saying the negotiations were now entering the endgame.
Officials said it remained unclear, however, if Iran and the six-power group with which it negotiates would be able to meet a March 31 deadline to reach a political understanding on the main parameters of a nuclear deal.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had already held two days of talks in this Swiss lakeside city with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and other top officials. A senior U.S. official described those talks on Friday as tough and very serious.
“Sanctions, pressure and an agreement do not go together.”
—Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Saturday, after meeting with his French and German counterparts.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Mr. Steinmeier and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also arrived here on Saturday, as the two sides made a final 72 hour push to advance the talks.
Failure to reach a political deal on time would pile pressure on the Obama administration in Washington, where lawmakers from both parties have threatened to advance legislation increasing sanctions on Iran, when Congress returns from recess. Such a situation could trigger a major crisis in the diplomatic efforts.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Friday that any political deal may simply be a political statement with a narrative about the main points. Mr. Hammond suggested meeting the March 31 deadline could be challenging and said the current congressional break gave the negotiators some extra leeway to seal a political deal.
A final, detailed nuclear agreement is due to be sealed by June 30.
“The discussions have been long, difficult. We advance on some points and on other points not enough.”
—French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Saturday
Speaking to reporters on Saturday outside the luxury hotel where the talks are taking place, Mr. Fabius said: “I come here with the wish to advance towards a robust accord.”
“The discussions have been long, difficult. We advance on some points and on other points not enough,” he added.
Mr. Fabius said that what is very important is the transparency Iran agrees to for overseeing its nuclear activities and the “controls, to be sure that the commitments made are respected.”
Germany’s Mr. Steinmeier struck a brighter tone as he headed into an afternoon of meetings with Mr. Kerry, Mr. Fabius and Iran’s Mr. Zarif. He said that after 12 years of nuclear talks with Iran, negotiations have entered the endgame. However, he said the final steps to be taken “are the most difficult but also the decisive ones.”
“I can only hope that given what we have achieved in the last 12 months that we don’t cease to try and reach a final agreement. The last 12 months have shown that there is serious willingness on all sides to negotiate,” he said.
Mr. Fabius has adopted a strong line in the Iran talks in recent weeks, with France appearing at odds with the U.S., at times, over what a final nuclear agreement must contain. Read the rest of this entry »
MPs back air strikes against Islamic State by 524 to 43, with a majority of 481 votes
It comes after more than six hours of debate in an emergency recall of Parliament today to plan for a third war in Iraq.
Earlier today David Cameron called for military action to stop a “terrorist caliphate” being set up near the Mediterranean.
“The brutality is staggering — beheadings, crucifixions, the gouging out of eyes, the use of rape as a weapon, the slaughter of children. All these things belong to the Dark Ages.”
— Prime Minister David Cameron
Six RAF Tornados were poised to bomb Islamic State assets tonight, just hours after all three main parties were expected to endorse a tightly worded motion restricting action to air strikes in Iraq.
— Evening Standard (@standardnews) September 26, 2014
In a historic Commons debate, Labour leader Ed Miliband — who has disowned the 2003 invasion of Iraq — said he understood the “qualms” and “deep unease” among MPs and the public about another war.
He urged: “I believe, although this is difficult, this is the right thing to do.”
However, Diane Abbott was among backbench MPs who said they would not vote for another Middle East war. Fears of “mission creep” among critics were fuelled when Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond left open the possibility military action might later have to be carried out in Syria as well as Iraq.
“In the space of a few months, Isil has taken control of territory greater than the size of Britain and is making millions selling oil to Syria’s Assad regime.”
The debate was led by the Prime Minister, who laid out the case for war by stressing that IS — also Isis or Isil — is a growing threat to the British people.
“The first Isil-inspired terrorist acts in Europe have already taken place, with the attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels,” he said. “Security services have disrupted six other known plots in Europe as well as foiling a terrorist attack in Australia aimed at civilians, including UK and US tourists.”
“This is not a threat on the far side of the world…This is not the stuff of fantasy. It is happening in front of us and we need to face up to it.”
— Prime Minister David Cameron
Mr Cameron described the “staggering brutality” of IS fanatics. “Isil is a terrorist organisation unlike those we have dealt with before,” he said. “The brutality is staggering — beheadings, crucifixions, the gouging out of eyes, the use of rape as a weapon, the slaughter of children. All these things belong to the Dark Ages.”
But he warned that the organisation was growing in power, territory and wealth, saying: “It is backed by billions of dollars and has captured an arsenal of the most modern weapons. Read the rest of this entry »
Earlier this week it was revealed that US spy planes are flying above Britain monitoring telephone and computer signals in a bid to track down Jihadi John
But Mr Comey told reporters at the agency’s headquarters he would not reveal the man’s name or his nationality.
Comey did not address whether the U.S. believes the man actually carried out the killings himself.
“Electronic footprints might help us pinpoint the location of the British IS executioner because we believe there are associates of his in the UK who are directly communicating with him.”
— FBI source
The beheadings are not shown in the videos.
In the three videos, the man speaks British-accented English.
He holds a long knife and appears to begin cutting the three men, American journalists James Foley, 40, and Steven Sotloff, 31, as well as British aid worker, David Haines, 44.
The executioner, who has a British accent, is one of four British jihadis known as the ‘Beatles’ holding hostages in Syria.
Today British officials would not say if the identity had been shared with the authorities on London, and would not be drawn on whether any arrests are imminent.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: ‘We won’t be commenting on matters of security at this stage.’