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News | Diplomats: First Round of Nuclear Talks 'Positive,' 'Constructive'

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI

14 Apr 2012 22:30Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

IstanbulRoundtable.jpg10:30 p.m. IRDT, 26 Farvardin/April 14 The first round of negotiations over Iran's nuclear program between Iran and the P5+1 group -- the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany -- was held on Saturday morning in Istanbul. Based on various reports, the talks were held in what diplomats described as a positive and constructive spirit. At 7:43 p.m. Istanbul time (9:13 p.m. Tehran time), Press TV, the English-language subsidiary of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, reported that a second round of collective deliberations has begun, while Iranian sources said the country's "negotiators have once again rejected new requests from [the] US for bilateral negotiations."

[Update: At 9:20 p.m. Istanbul time (10:50 p.m. Tehran time), Press TV announced that the parties had agreed to meet again for further negotiations in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on May 23.]

Julian Borger of the Guardian, who is generally critical of Iran's nuclear activities, reported, "The news at half-time is generally good. Most importantly, diplomats say that the Iranian delegation have met the standard set for it by the major powers here of showing 'serious engagement.' As things stand, a second round of talks looks likely." After the opening speech by Catherine Ashton, the chief nuclear negotiator for the P5+1, her Iranian counterpart, Saeed Jalili, secretary-general of the Supreme National Security Council responded. In one Western diplomat's description,

It was not long or bombastic or propagandistic. The tone was calm and constructive. He said he was ready to seriously engage on the Iranian nuclear issue. There was no long prayer to the Mahdi.

American Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman said that there was no need for U.S.-Iran relations to be as bad as they have been. After the heads of the Russian, French, Chinese, and German delegations also spoke, the British envoy summed up by declaring that the problems was not insoluble. Jalili, who has a reputation for talking in generalities and lamenting what the West has done to Iran, responded constructively, according to one of Borger's sources: "Jalili disagreed with some of the points made but in the words of a diplomat present, the Iranian phrased the disagreement in non-confrontational terms, not accusing the other six nations of oppression."

George Jahn of the Associated Press reporter, who is a frequent conduit for leaks from Israeli intelligence sources, was also positive: "Nuclear negotiators for Iran and six world powers were making encouraging progress in bridging differences that have doomed previous meetings meant to reduce fears over Tehran's atomic program." According to diplomats with whom he spoke, "The unfolding dialogue between the two sides suggested they would find enough common ground for a second round in several weeks' time."

The New York Times reported, "A Western diplomat inside the talks said the morning had shown 'serious engagement' on the part of Iran and a willingness to discuss 'the heart of the issue,' which is skepticism about the aims of Iran's nuclear program, which is being carried out despite United Nations Security Council sanctions."

Iranian news agencies also sounded upbeat. The Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported that Sherman has asked for a face-to-face meeting with Jalili. IRNA, Iran's official news agency, reported that the request had been turned down by Iran. But Mehr, the news agency that belongs to the Organization for Islamic Propaganda, reported that Jalili has not responded to the request -- perhaps awaiting instruction from Tehran.

According to a second dispatch by ISNA, Ashton's chief spokesman, Michael Mann, described the morning talks as "positive and constructive." He declared that there are no preconditions for the negotiations. Mehr also quoted a Turkish political analyst saying that the atmosphere of negotiations is different this time, compared with the last meeting in Istanbul 15 months ago, at which negotiators failed to make any progress.

AshtonJaliliLong.jpgOn Friday night, Ashton met for dinner with Jalili for three hours at Iran's consulate in Istanbul, during which Ashton emphasized that the P5+1 will enter the negotiations with "new ideas and methods." After the meeting, Ashton said that Jalili had asked for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR); she did not respond to the request and said that the issue is on the negotiation table. Since Iran began producing enriched uranium at 19.75 percent, the level required for the TRR, the Western powers have become very alarmed about its enrichment capabilities of Iran and may demand that Iran halt such production.

Jalili's request for fuel for the TRR may be an indication that Iran is willing to consider halting 19.75 percent enrichment. Indeed, Mehr quoted hadrline Majles deputy Parviz Sorouri, a member of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission and a former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander, as saying, "If the West fulfills our needs for [19.75] percent enrichment, Iran is ready to review its decision to purify nuclear fuel to such a degree.... Our analysis shows that the West is sending signals that it is backing down on different issues." Sorouri adding that any insistince by the P5+1 that Iran restrict itself to 3.5 percent enrichment (for conventional reactor fuel) without considering its need for more highly enriched uranium will not be helpful. "We believe that a win-win approach can create a situation for the P5+1 to get out of the current dilemma, and do something that meets both the interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran and also allays the West's concerns."

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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