Sunday, April 15, 2012

Iran hails progress in talks on nuclear programme

Iranian-nuclear-facility-008 Iran and six world powers claimed on Saturday that they had made significant progress in talks in Istanbul on the Iranian nuclear programme and said they would start talking about concrete steps towards a negotiated solution to the crisis at the next meeting, in Baghdad on 23 May.

Speaking on behalf of the six-nation group, Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, said the new negotiating process would be guided by the "principle of a step-by-step approach and reciprocity", implying that Iran could be rewarded for accepting limits on its enrichment of uranium with a relaxation or postponement of sanctions.

The chief Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, also hailed the outcome of 10 hours of talks in Istanbul. "We have already said we support and welcome talks," Jalili said. "We had differences of opinion but the points we agreed on are important and tangible."

Ashton's and Jalili's deputies will now have the job of putting together an agenda of confidence-building measures. A senior diplomat at the talks said they had gone as well as could be expected, without dramatic breakthroughs but no unpleasant surprises either. "This was above the threshold of 'serious engagement' [from Iran]," the diplomat said. "But it's beer not champagne I am drinking at the end of the day. We have serious work to do."

Officials in the six-nation group said it would expect Iran to take concrete steps to reassure the international community it does not plan to build nuclear weapons, for example by limiting its advanced work on enriching uranium. But they conceded that the international community would have to reciprocate with its own concessions. One of those concessions could be to delay the implementation of an European oil embargo, due to take effect on 1 July.

"We will have to credible too," one diplomat said. Asked whether there was a danger of the six-nation group being sucked into an endless process without a clear outcome, he conceded it was a risk but added: "My patience is great but the world is a dangerous place" – a reference to the constant threat from Israel to take military action to set back the Iranian nuclear programme.

The Guardian

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