‘Most substantive’ Iran nuclear talks to date, but narrow area of agreement


Iranian nuclear experts deeply engaged on the substance of a revised international proposal, and said they are considering suspending 20% enrichment for six months and converting their 20% stockpile to oxide for medical use at technical talks with six world powers held in Istanbul last week, diplomatic sources told Al-Monitor Tuesday.

However, the Iranians raised numerous objections to other elements in a revised international proposal presented in Kazakhstan last month, a diplomatic source, speaking not for attribution, said Tuesday. Among them: suspending other operations at Fordo except for 20% enrichment, shipping out Tehran’s stockpile of 20% enriched fuel; as well as enhanced IAEA inspections.

American officials “had the most substantive conversation they ever had” with the Iranians, another analyst briefed on the Istanbul talks, speaking not for attribution, said. International arms control envoys “went through their [international] proposal slide by slide, and [the Iranians] didn’t focus on [their] counter proposal.”

The Iranians in Istanbul were cool to incentives in the revised offer, including modest sanctions relief, but did not explain what they would want instead, according to the diplomat.

The updated proposal offered to ease sanctions on the gold trade and petrochemical sales, but not major oil and banking sanctions, Al-Monitor reported last month.

Diplomats from six world powers head back to Almaty, Kazakhstan next week for political director level talks with Iran, to be held April 5-6.

Two sources suggested the US may be looking at additional incentives to possibly bolster the international offer, but the details were unclear.

The parties have said little publicly following the March 18 technical meeting in Turkey, in part perhaps due to the Persian New Year’s (Nowruz) holiday underway and Easter and Passover holidays in the West.

But an Iranian source close to the talks on Tuesday pointed Al-Monitor to a speech by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei last week for guidance on Tehran’s negotiating stance.

“If the Americans wanted to resolve the issue, this would be a very simple solution: they could recognize the Iranian nation’s right to enrichment and in order to address those concerns, they could enforce the regulations of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” Khamenei said in a March 21 speech in the city of Mashhad. “We were never opposed to the supervision and regulations of the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

“Whenever we are close to a solution, the Americans cause a problem in order to prevent reaching a solution,” Khamenei continued. “My assumption and interpretation is that their goal is to keep the issue unresolved so that they can have a pretext for exerting pressure on us.”


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