White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday said that the P5+1 group that is holding talks with Iran on its nuclear program was “unified” in its approach and blamed Tehran for rejecting a possible deal.
“The P5+1 were unified on the proposal that was put forward and the Iranians did not accept that proposal, and that’s a statement of fact,” Carney told reporters.
His comments came after both sides failed to reach a possible diplomatic breakthrough during talks over the weekend in Geneva.
The P5+1 group, which includes the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China, is pressing Iran to rein in its nuclear program, fearing that Tehran is building weapons. Iran, though, insists its program is for peaceful energy purposes.
The U.S. and other powers have instituted tough sanctions on Iran to force a halt to the nuclear program. Newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani came to power after promising voters that he would negotiate with the West to ease those sanctions.
Negotiators in Geneva were nearing a deal that would have seen some limited sanctions relief in exchange for Iran freezing some aspects of its nuclear program, but failed to reach an accord.
Talks are expected to resume Nov. 20, but the White House must now deal with a firestorm of controversy after allies publicly questioned the blueprint for a deal and congressional lawmakers warned the administration not to ease pressure on Iran.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the accord would have been “the deal of the century” for Iran, and reports said France expressed concern that the deal would not have done enough to control Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Sunday also said that he would press for additional sanctions to further heighten pressure on Iran.
Secretary of State John Kerry over the weekend rejected suggestions that the P5+1 group was split, and said the administration was committed to a firm deal.
“There was important progress made at these negotiations and they were cordial and substantive and serious,” said Carney on Tuesday.
“We remain united in our approach to Iran and our approach to these negotiations,” he said of the P5+1.
He acknowledged that “gaps remain” between the international community and Iran. “That is why there will be a break and the P5+1 will resume negotiations,” he said.
Carney cautioned the press “against believing rumors, incorrect reports and prejudicial outcomes.”
He also urged lawmakers to allow more time for diplomacy and to not immediately pass further sanctions which could imperil talks.
Carney said it was Obama’s “responsibility as president to pursue a diplomatic option.”
He added that “Secretary Kerry and Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman are briefing the Senate Banking committee tomorrow,” saying it was part of a “broader effort to consult with Congress and update them on the P5+1 negotiations and our consultations with our allies.”