Ashton to meet Iran’s Jalili in follow up nuclear talks

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Chief international negotiator Catherine Ashton will meet Iran’s nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Istanbul on May 15th, the office of the European Union foreign policy chief said Thursday.

The meeting is the “follow up to the last round of negotiations” between six world powers and Iran held in Almaty, Kazakhstan April 5-6, Ashton’s spokesperson Michael Mann said in a two-line statement Thursday.

Ashton is expected to be “in listening mode” in the follow-up consultation, a western diplomatic source told Al-Monitor Thursday is his understanding.

“The P5+1 are expecting some sort of an indication that Iran wants to engage seriously,” the diplomat, speaking not for attribution, said, adding that “the bar seems to be rather low.”

Last week, Iran’s deputy nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri repeatedly announced that Iran was ready to return to negotiations and was waiting for Ashton’s call.

“We are waiting to see whether Lady Ashton’s response is going to cover the time and venue of another round of negotiations, or will she limit her response to just discussing the substantive side of things,” Bagheri told Reuters  in an interview in Geneva April 25th.

Bagheri, in the Reuters interview, also said that Iran is willing to discuss requests from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “which go beyond our obligations” under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Reuters report said.

Iran is also due to have a meeting with the IAEA on May 15th.

“Once we reach an agreement with the agency, we also expect the (six powers), because of such cooperation with the agency which goes well beyond our obligations, to lift a number of sanctions. Unilateral sanctions which are illegal,” Bagheri told Reuters.

Iran issued a counter proposal at the Almaty2 talks last month in which it first proposed that the international community offer Iran a roadmap under which it would be assured it would receive recognition of its right to enrich and the lifting of sanctions, before it undertook a proposed confidence building measure focused on curbing its 20% enrichment. It subsequently suggested as an alternative that the US and EU lift unilateral sanctions in exchange for suspending its 20% enrichment.

Bagheri, whose brother, Iranian sources say, is married to the Iranian Supreme Leader’s daughter Hoda, repeated the two ideas in Iran media interviews last week.

Moving forward, “Bagheri proposed that P5+1 either abandon Almaty or commit to one of two courses of action,” Banafsheh Keynoush wrote  for Al-Monitor. “Resolve pending issues based on Iran’s comprehensive proposal delivered last year in Moscow…or resolve issues with Iran on a step-by-step basis by agreeing on a few preliminary measures privately discussed between the parties in Almaty 2.”

Bagheri was ostensibly in Geneva last week as a member of Iran’s delegation to the 2013 NPT Preparatory Committee negotiations taking place there from April 22 until May 3, another diplomatic source said, who noted that all of the Iran team’s statements were given by its envoy to the IAEA Ali Ashgar Soltanieh. Also attending was Hamid-Reza Asgari, another member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team.

(Photo: Iran’s deputy negotiator Ali Bagheri speaks during a news conference in Almaty April 5, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov.)