Statement by the President on Iran:
THE PRESIDENT: This is a good day, because, once again, we’re seeing what’s possible with strong American diplomacy… For decades, our differences with Iran meant that our governments almost never spoke to each other. Ultimately, that did not advance America’s interests… As I’ve said many times, the nuclear deal was never intended to resolve all of our differences with Iran. But still, engaging directly with the Iranian government on a sustained basis, for the first time in decades, has created a unique opportunity – a window – to try to resolve important issues… And perhaps most important of all, we’ve achieved this historic progress through diplomacy, without resorting to another war in the Middle East…
This brings me to a second major development – several Americans unjustly detained by Iran are finally coming home. In some cases, these Americans faced years of continued detention. And I’ve met with some of their families. I’ve seen their anguish, how they ache for their sons and husbands. I gave these families my word – I made a vow – that we would do everything in our power to win the release of their loved ones. And we have been tireless. On the sidelines of the nuclear negotiations, our diplomats at the highest level, including Secretary Kerry, used every meeting to push Iran to release our Americans. I did so myself, in my conversation with President Rouhani. After the nuclear deal was completed, the discussions between our governments accelerated. Yesterday, these families finally got the news that they have been waiting for…
But I do want to once again speak directly to the Iranian people. Yours is a great civilization, with a vibrant culture that has so much to contribute to the world – in commerce, and in science and the arts. For decades, your government’s threats and actions to destabilize your region have isolated Iran from much of the world. And now our governments are talking with one another. Following the nuclear deal, you – especially young Iranians – have the opportunity to begin building new ties with the world. We have a rare chance to pursue a new path – a different, better future that delivers progress for both our peoples and the wider world. That’s the opportunity before the Iranian people. We need to take advantage of that.
And to my fellow Americans, today, we’re united in welcoming home sons and husbands and brothers who, in lonely prison cells, have endured an absolute nightmare. But they never gave in and they never gave up. At long last, they can stand tall and breathe deep the fresh air of freedom…”
[Link to full statement]
Remarks by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Implementation Day and the return of captives held in Iran
“In the military, as you all know, and in other dangerous callings, the most sacred pledge that you can make is to never leave a buddy behind. Like most pledges, it’s a lot easier to say than to do…
So I will tell you, frankly, that a week ago on Saturday was really one of the days that I enjoyed the most as Secretary of State. It was also perhaps the most nerve-wracking. I have to tell you that we had 12 hours of delay working through complications on implementation day, last-minute negotiations. And then after we had announced implementation day, I came out of that announcement and Javad Zarif came up to me and said, “We can’t find [Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezanian’s] wife and his mother.” Now, from some people, that might make sense. But Iran couldn’t find – (laughter) – the wife and mother?
So there was an enormous amount of activity – very, very, very quickly. And to the credit of Javad Zarif, he moved, and moved rapidly. And he got a number of people moving in Iran, including the president’s brother, and they woke up a judge in the middle of the night, got papers signed that needed to be signed to release Yegi, and now we all know the end of this great story…”
[Link to full statement]