1109 GMT February 25, 2020
During a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Washington on Friday, Obama directed his diplomats to use “creative negotiations” to bridge a sharp divide with Iran over the fate of sanctions if it agrees to curb its nuclear program, signaling flexibility in hopes of keeping a tentative agreement from unraveling, The New York Times reported.
Removal of the sanctions “will require some creative negotiations” by Secretary of State John Kerry and others, he said.
"How sanctions are lessened, how we snap back sanctions if there's a violation, there are a lot of different mechanisms and ways to do that," he said.
Instead, Obama suggested that negotiators seek a solution that would seem “more acceptable” to Iran’s political constituencies, while preserving leverage to force the government to abide by the deal.
Rather than the timing and structure of sanctions relief, he said his priority was creating a system for re-imposing the punitive measures if Iran is caught cheating.
The negotiators, Obama said, need to “find formulas that get to our main concerns while allowing the other side to make a presentation to their body politic that is more acceptable.”
US concerns vs Iran concerns
“Our main concern here is making sure that if Iran doesn’t abide by its agreement, that we don’t have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops in order to reinstate sanctions. That’s our main concern,” Obama added.
After reaching a nuclear framework between Iran and the P5+1 group – the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – in the Swiss city Lausanne on April 2, the two sides are working to reach a final deal by July 1.
Tehran says the sanctions imposed on the country over its nuclear program should be removed at the beginning of the implementation of the deal, but the P5+1 group says the sanctions would be lifted over time.
President Obama also commented on Iran legislation approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week, allowing Congress to review any final nuclear deal with Iran.
“There were a number of people who were supporting legislation, suggesting that as a routine matter a president needs to get sign-off from Congress to negotiate political agreements,” Obama said.
“That is not the case. That has never been the case. This is not a formal treaty that is being envisioned and the president of the United States, whether Democrat or Republican, traditionally has been able to enter into political agreements that are binding with other countries without congressional approval,” he said.
The US president explained about his willingness to sign the bill, despite his earlier veto threat.
The language of the bill now “at least allows me to interpret the legislation in such a way that it is not sending a signal to future presidents that each and every time they’re negotiating a political agreement, that they have to get a congressional authorization”, Obama said.
According to the legislation, President Obama should submit the final nuclear deal for congressional review and he would not be allowed to lift sanctions levied by Congress against Iran during the review period.
There is an initial review period of 30 days and 12 more days would be added, if Congress passes a bill to disapprove the deal with 60 votes and sends it to Obama.
If the president vetoes the bill, there would be an additional 10 days added to allow Congress an opportunity to override the veto.
On Wednesday, Kerry said he is confident that the Obama administration can reach a final nuclear agreement with Iran despite new legislation by Congress.
"We are confident about our ability for the president to negotiate an agreement and to do so with the ability to make the world safer," Kerry said.