As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touched down in the United States for a contentious two-day visit specifically designed to derail a pending nuclear agreement between Iran, the United States and other world powers, the Iranian foreign minister on Monday made his nation's position clear and said a deal is close so long as the Obama administration can muster the political will to see it through.
What is primary, said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif from Geneva—where he was attending a meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission—is that economic and trade sanctions aimed at Tehran come to an end.
"Our negotiating partners, particularly the Western countries and particularly the United States," Zarif told Reuters, "must once and for all come to the understanding that sanctions and agreement don't go together. If they want an agreement, sanctions must go... We believe all sanctions must be lifted."
Zarif continued, "We have made some progress since last time and if there is the political will... we can have an agreement this time."
On Sunday evening, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Switzerland for three days of talks between the P5+1 nations (the U.S., U.K., Russia, France, China and Germany) and Zarif and his Iranian delegation. The talks themselves will take place in the lakeside town of Montreaux over three days beginning Monday.
Also on the sidelines of a meeting of the UNHRC in Geneva earlier in the day, Kerry was tight-lipped about his upcoming meeting with Zarif. "The clock is ticking," Kerry reportedly said of the pending deal. He further indicated it was in neither party's interest to discuss what issues still remain outstanding.
Back in Washington D.C., as the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) readies to receive Netanyahu on Monday, U.S. lawmakers are making last-minute decisions on whether or not they will attend a speech the prime minister is scheduled to deliver to a joint-session of Congress on Tuesday.
So far, nearly forty Democrats have said they will not attend Netanyahu's speech and the Obama administration has publicly criticized the prime minister for his interference in the debate regarding the talks in Switzerland and urging Congress to sabotage the deal by passing even more sanctions which all observers understand is the surest way to sabotage the prospects of a deal with Tehran.