Shadow diplomacy

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The EU’s Helga Schmid and Iran’s Ali Bagheri held meetings in Geneva May 6-7, a diplomatic source told the Back Channel.

The deputy nuclear negotiators for the P5+1 and Iran respectively are due to hold a second meeting this week, but I’ve been asked to hold off reporting the date and location as negotiators are seeking to minimize publicity for the preparatory talks. Schmid and Bagheri are meeting to prepare the agenda for the next round of Iran nuclear talks due to be held May 23rd in Baghdad.

As I noted in a column today, there has been a flurry of decidedly unpublicized diplomatic activity ahead of the next round of Iran nuclear talks, much of it taking place in the shadows:

Western negotiators have made clear that when it comes to the exceedingly sensitive Iran nuclear negotiations process, they believe more can be accomplished in such quiet meetings.

But notable as well is the fact that no scuttlebutt from the first known face-to-face talks between Schmid and Bagheri since Istanbul has leaked from the Iranian side, as has occurred in many similar past cases. That may be a sign of Tehran’s efforts to maintain the positive atmosphere and a modicum of trust and goodwill that was established at the last round of talks in Istanbul last month.

The lead U.S. negotiator with the P5+1 group, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, did not participate in the Schmid-Bagheri discussions this past week, I was told. But American officials have made clear that she is open to do so — and that they have zero plans to advertise it if and when she does.

“We are not going to get into details of the ongoing preparatory talks in advance of Baghdad,” a Western official told me Friday. “But as you are aware, there are preparatory meetings taking place.”

 

(Photo: Swans near the water fountain in Geneva August 2, 2011. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse.)