Iran nuclear talks prep meetings to get underway–quietly


My colleague Barbara Slavin hears from a well-placed Iranian source that the EU’s deputy foreign policy chief Helga Schmid and Iran’s deputy nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri are holding their first meeting this week to prepare for the next round of P5+1/Iran talks, which are due to take place in Baghdad on May 23rd.

A spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and deputy Schmid said that the office did not intend to announce such meetings or provide details, but also did not deny the meeting is taking place.

“Schmid and Bagheri are in regular contact to prepare for the next round of talks to be held on May 23 rd in Baghdad – as agreed in Istanbul,” a spokesperson for Ashton told me Monday.

Schmid and Bagheri are indeed meeting, but not in Brussels, another western diplomatic source who asked for anonymity indicated Monday.

Western negotiators have made clear that they believe more can be accomplished in the exceedingly hairy Iran nuclear talks process in such quiet meetings–out of the spotlight.

Meantime, Washington’s rep to the Iran P5+1 talks, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, was traveling in Europe last weekend, to attend the Daimler US-European Forum on Global Issues conference, held in Berlin May 3-4.

While in Berlin, Sherman also participated in an unannounced political directors meeting on Iran with her counterparts from France, Germany, and the UK, a source at the conference said. But Schmid wasn’t there, he said.

A State Department spokeswoman said last week that Sherman may participate in some of the unannounced preparatory meetings ahead of Baghdad.

I think we’re still talking about what makes sense,” State Department spokeswoman  Victoria Nuland told journalists at the April 30th State Department press briefing. “As you know, the EU High Rep’s staff has been talking to the Iranians.  So I think if lower level technical meetings at the P-5+1 and Iran level would be helpful in preparing the Baghdad round, we’re not closed to that idea, but we’re not at the point of making any decisions yet.”

(Photo: EU deputy foreign policy chief Helga Schmid, courtesy of Schmid official EU bio.)