Diplomats hoping for Iran nuclear talks in late January

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Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the EC, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy participates at a meeting of the E3 + 3 on the Iranian nuclear issue.
The latest on long anticipated P5+1 Iran talks: They are not happening next week, as western negotiators had been hoping.

A Western diplomat told the Back Channel Friday that efforts are now underway to  arrange a meeting at the end of the month, but cautioned that no date or venue had yet been agreed.

“Nothing confirmed,” a second, European official said Saturday.

An unnamed Russian official reportedly said Friday that nuclear negotiations would resume at the end of January in Istanbul. That followed  Russia’s lead negotiator Sergei Ryabkov criticizing the long pause in talks. Diplomats from the six world powers and Iran held three rounds of talks last spring and summer. Expectation that talks would resume shortly after the US presidential elections in November have not materialized, however, as in recent weeks Iran has not responded to at least two dates proposed by the six parties. “This becomes unclear and sends a wrong signal,” Ryabkov was cited by Itar-Tass Jan. 9.

American officials have interpreted the Iranian delay in scheduling talks to date as a potentially inauspicious sign of continued dysfunction or indecisiveness in Tehran, diplomatic sources told the Back Channel.

American negotiators “are ready, if Iran says yes, to work through with them a step by step deal,” a Washington non-proliferation expert told the Back Channel  Tuesday. “They want to be able to make a deal. And a major concern is whether Iran is capable of making a deal, whether the Supreme Leader is capable of even deciding that he wants to make a deal. That is where their concern is.”

Iran is due to host a senior team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Jan. 16th. IAEA chief Yukiya Amano told reporters Friday that he was not optimistic that Iran will grant the agency access to the Parchin facility. “The outlook is not bright,” he said in Tokyo Friday, Reuters reported.

(Photo: Political directors from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China met with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and her deputy Helga Schmid in Brussels, November 28, 2012, photo by EEAS).