Iran nuclear talks will almost certainly go past the June 30 deadline, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday, but he wouldn’t indicate whether that means an agreement is more or less likely.
“At this point I would anticipate that negotiations will continue past the deadline. This is not surprising nor uncommon,” Earnest told reporters.
In the backdrop of high-level Iranian military and religious leaders blasting negotiations, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Earnest was asked if the fact that talks are still going is a sign that an agreement is more likely.
“I wouldn’t read it that way,” he said. “I think it’s an indication that there are some important unresolved issues under negotiations. These are not issues that can be resolved in the next 36 hours. It requires additional time that our negotiators are talking in Vienna in pursuit of an agreement that would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and ensure that they cooperate with the most intrusive set of inspections that have ever been imposed on a nuclear program.”
Earnest said the Joint Plan of Action, the framework reached between Iran and the U.S.-led world powers in April, would continue to be in place even after the June 30 deadline lapses.
The preliminary deal prohibits Iran from having nuclear weapons, allows the country to continue to enrich uranium, while establishing rigorous inspections and a “snap back” of international sanctions if Iran violates the agreement. That framework was reached after the deadline of March 30 passed.
Pressed on whether it was possible to have “snap back” of sanctions, Earnest said he suspected that is one of the details being hammered out that is holding up that will stretch past the formal deadline.
Previously, President Barack Obama and administration officials estimated a less than 50 percent chance of a final deal being reached. Earnest declined to put any such estimate on that Monday.
“Our negotiators are trying to pursue this and will be working overtime,” he said. “I would hesitate to put numbers on it at this point.”