A day before U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf confirmed on Tuesday that the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 nations will be extended at least until Friday, an Iranian leader reiterated the Islamic Republic’s desire for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”
“The presence of the Israeli regime is temporary,” Iranian Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told the Hizbullah-linked Al Ahd news website.
“Eventually one day this alien forged existence that has been forced into the body of an ancient nation and a historical region will be wiped off the map.”
Regarding the nuclear negotiations, Rafsanjani said that “even Tel Aviv knows well that Iran is not after acquiring nuclear weapons,” according the Iranian state news service IRNA.
But he warned that the “Zionist” opposition to a nuclear deal serves “to keep Iran engaged in problems permanently, knowing that the Islamic Republic’s political, economic, cultural and propagation status will all improve after such an agreement.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposes the nuclear negotiations because, among other reasons, of Iranian leaders’ threatening rhetoric regarding the Jewish state, said Monday he believes an agreement “will pave Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal.”
“This deal as far as we can see comes on almost daily concessions from the P5+1 to growing Iranian demands. Every day more concessions are made, and every day the deal becomes worse and worse,” Netanyahu said.
The State Department’s Harf said that despite the nuclear talks’ extensions beyond the June 30 and July 7 deadlines, the negotiations have made “substantial progress.”
“To allow for the additional time to negotiate, we are taking the necessary technical steps for the measures of the Joint Point of Action [the 2013 agreement] to remain in place through July 10,” Harf said.
According to reports, a dispute over United Nations sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program is holding up the deal.
“We are continuing to negotiate for the next couple of days,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters during a break from the negotiations in Vienna.
“This does not mean we are extending our deadline. I told you one week ago more or less. We are interpreting in a flexible way our deadline, which means that we are taking the time, the days we still need, to finalize the agreement,” she said.
She added that a deal is “something which is still possible even if we are now getting into the difficult time. I am here to stay, to continue together with all the teams. All the six teams are here.”
She said that foreign ministers may leave the talks but “are ready to come back in the coming hours and days.”
An Iranian spokesman told AFP that for his delegation, there is “no deadline.”
Before Tuesday’s announcement of the extended deadline, Secretary of State John Kerry said in Vienna on Sunday that the talks could still go “either way,” claiming the administration will walk away from the table rather than settle for a bad deal.
“If there’s absolute intransigence [on the part of the Iranians], if there’s an unwillingness to move on the things that are important, President Obama has always said we’ll be prepared to walk away,” he told reporters.
“It’s not what anybody wants. We want to get an agreement. But I’ve said from the moment I became involved in this we want a good agreement, only a good agreement, and we’re not going to shave anywhere at the margins in order just to get an agreement.”
In previous rounds of the marathon negotiations, Iranian negotiators have pushed for last-minute concessions from the P5+1 group – the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – invariably resulting in the talks dragging on beyond self-imposed deadlines.