Diplomats confer ahead of Ashton-Jalili call

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Diplomats from the 5+1 conferred Tuesday ahead of an expected conversation next week between the top international and Iran negotiators, diplomatic sources told Al-Monitor.

Political directors from the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China held a conference call Tuesday with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, to determine exactly what she should say when she speaks with Iran’s Saeed Jalili. An exact date for the Ashton-Jalili call has not been finalized. US negotiator Wendy Sherman, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, is in Washington this week, the State Department said, after traveling earlier this month to China, Russia and London for consultations with her P5+1 counterparts on Iran and Syria.

Iran’s hosting of the non-aligned movement summit in Tehran this week has consumed its diplomatic attention for the moment and pushed back the Ashton-Jalili conversation a few days. The extra time is just as well given the P5+1 Iran diplomacy having to contend with the potential wrench thrown into the negotiating calendar presented by recent Israeli saber-rattling on Iran. House Intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Tuesday he thinks any Israel strike on Iran will come after the US presidential election, November 6.  Israeli official sources have offered the same suggestion to Al-Monitor in interviews this month. Israeli officials indicated that a decision has not yet been taken.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, in an interview with Al-Monitor‘s Barbara Slavin in Tehran Tuesday, was quite cautious when asked about the nuclear negotiations.

“I’m optimistic about … the future outcome of the talks of the P 5+1, but we have to be a little patient and be cautious in our rhetoric and reactions and keep our limits,” Salehi told Slavin after a long pause. “I’m of the view that there is a way out based on a win-win situation.”

“Although we see no justification for the worries of the 5+1 vis-à-vis our peaceful nuclear activities, … we recognize their worries and we are ready to mitigate and alleviate — recognize mechanisms internationally to remove all these worries,” he said. “But at the same time, we expect in return they also recognize our full rights to peaceful nuclear activities including the right to enrichment and the complete fuel cycle.”

Iran non-proliferation expert Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), said he found Salehi’s acknowledgement of international concerns over its nuclear program significant and new.

“Most interesting line in Salehi interview: ‘we recognize [P5+1] worries,’” Fitzpatrick wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “I don’t think Iran [has] said that in the talks” to date.

(Photo: Iran Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi in Tehran August 28, 2012; Barbara Slavin/Al-Monitor.)