At a joint press conference with French President Francois Hollande, who is on a three-day visit of the U.S., Obama said the two long-time allies were “standing shoulder to shoulder on the key challenges to global security.”
“President Hollande and I agree on the need to continue enforcing existing sanctions even as we believe that new sanctions during these negotiations would endanger the possibility of a diplomatic solution,” Obama said. “And we remain absolutely united on our ultimate goal, which is preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Obama’s remarks come as the world powers will resume talks with Tehran in Vienna in hopes of forging a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear power.
A temporary nuclear deal finalized in January opens a 6-month door for further negotiations. The initial deal offered some sanctions relief in exchange for Iran freezing elements of its nuclear program and the Obama administration has called for time to pursue a long-lasting negotiated settlement.
But the initial deal was met with apprehension by a number of key U.S. allies and on Capitol Hill, where senators pushed efforts to tighten the sanctions regime on Iran, despite a veto threat from the White House.
France initially voiced skepticism about the nuclear deal, before signing on to the framework.
Critics say the agreement does little to stop Iran’s nuclear quest and has only undermined the international consensus on sanctions.
Obama on Tuesday defended his Iran policy, saying tough sanctions had forced Tehran to the table and halted their nuclear development.
“Our unity with our P5+1 partners, backed with strong sanctions, has succeeded in halting and rolling back key parts of the Iranian nuclear program,” said Obama.
But he cautioned that the international community would watch Iran closely to ensure they negotiated in good faith and upheld their commitments.
“We agreed that next week's talks in Vienna will be an opportunity for Iran to show that it is serious about a comprehensive solution that assures the world that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only,” said Obama.
Hollande said the U.S. and France had “found common ground” over Iran.
“It’s a challenging issue, and finding a final agreement will be challenging,” he conceded.
But Hollande insisted that the initial deal had brought progress.
“The Iranian nuclear program has been suspended,” said the French president. “And this is precisely the outcome of our collaboration, collaboration between France and the United States of America.”