Ashton-Jalili chat for an hour: “Moscow is a green light”

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European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton had a one hour phone conversation with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Monday evening, after several days of bickering between western and Iranian negotiators about preparations for upcoming nuclear talks in Moscow.

“Moscow is a green light,” a western diplomat told Al Monitor Monday was the upshot of the call.

Ashton, in the call, updated Iran’s chief negotiator, Dr. Saeed Jalili, on the conclusions of the six nation international negotiating group, which met in Strasbourg Monday.

“Jalili went on and on about need for a technical meeting,” a European diplomat told Al Monitor on condition he not be identified. “Ashton stayed firm.”

The Iranians “have now backed down from that and appear prepared to engage on our proposals, which is important for us,” he added. “We will respond to their ideas.”

Ashton and Jalili “agreed on the need for Iran to engage on the E3+3 proposals, which address its concerns on the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program,” a statement from a spokesperson for Ashton said.

“She also conveyed the E3+3’s readiness to respond to the issues raised by the Iranians in Baghdad.”

The Ashton-Jalili conversation–the first since difficult nuclear talks in Baghdad last month–comes after several days of rancorous correspondence between the deputy European and Iranian negotiators over preparations for the upcoming Moscow talks. Among the low-points: Iran’s deputy nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri reportedly claimed he never received a copy of a detailed confidence building proposal presented by the international group to Iran in Baghdad last month, the Guardian reports. (The EU’s Helga Schmid resent the proposal Monday, “as Iran seemingly ignores the existence of the paper (which had been handed over by DSG [Schmid] to [Bagheri]  personally in Baghdad on May 23),” a western diplomat said, reflecting evident frustration from the last few days interactions with Tehran.

The statement from Strasbourg/Brussels obliquely referenced the communications in passing Monday–with no mention of the acrimony:

“Since the last meeting in Baghdad, EU Political Director Helga Schmid has been in constant contact with her Iranian counterpart Dr. Bagheri.”

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