Iran, EU deputy nuclear negotiators to meet July 24

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The deputy nuclear negotiators for Iran and the six-nation P5+1 negotiating group will meet in Istanbul on July 24th, a European Union spokesman said Monday.

Deputy EU foreign policy chief Helga Schmid will meet with her Iranian counterpart Ali Bagheri in Turkey to try to find a way to bridge significant gaps in the two sides’ positions.

“The objective for the meeting of Schmid and Bagheri is to look further at how existing gaps in positions could be narrowed and how the process could be moved forward,” Michael Mann, an EU spokesman, said in an emailed statement sent to Al-Monitor Monday.

The meeting plans come a week after nuclear experts from the seven nations met in Istanbul for over 15 hours last week to discuss the technical details of a P5+1 confidence building proposal. That proposal, first presented to Iran in Baghdad in May, asks Iran to halt its 20% enrichment activities, ship out its 20% stockpile, and decommission the highly fortified Fordo enrichment facility, built into a mountain near Qom, in exchange for fuel and safety upgrades for Tehran’s medical and civilian eactors and spare parts for its civilian aircraft.

Negotiations between senior diplomats from the P5+1 and Iran stalled in Moscow last month over wide gaps between the two sides’ positions. Iran had expressed willingness to discuss halting its 20% enrichment activities, but sough recognition in turn for its right to enrich to 3.5%, while raising objections to the two other international demands. Iran has since made public the proposal (.pdf) it made to the P5+1 in Moscow.

Negotiators thus proposed holding the sequence of lower level discussions among technical experts and then the political deputies before scheduling another senior political director level meeting.

Following the July 24th Schmid-Bagheri meeting in Istanbul, their bosses, EU High Rep Catherine Ashton and Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili are also due to meet to determine how to proceed.

Tough European Union sanctions on the import of Iranian oil went into effect July 1st.