EU's Ashton hopes Iran nuclear talks resume soon

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Lead international negotiator Catherine Ashton said Tuesday she looks forward to resuming Iran nuclear talks as soon as possible after the appointment of Iran's new nuclear negotiating team, following the inauguration next month of Iran president elect Hassan Rouhani.

Ashton spoke after a meeting in Brussels Tuesday of political directors from the P5+1—the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China.

“We met to consider our position and to look at how best we can move forward in trying to find a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue,” Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, said in a statement.

“Of course we wait now for the team to be appointed by Iran,” she said. “We very much hope that will be soon and we look forward to meeting with them as soon as possible.

The six powers are likely to ask Iran when talks resume in the fall to provide a substantive response to an updated confidence building proposal they presented at a meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan in February, a senior US official told Al-Monitor last week.

“We all believe that the proposal put on the table [in Almaty] is a good one, and there is still time and space to achieve a diplomatic solution over Iran’s nuclear program,” the senior US official said, stressing the proposal is open for negotiating, but they were reluctant to  negotiate among themselves before hearing back from the Iranians.

“The onus is on Iran, to give us some substantive, concrete response,” the official said.

Some Iran experts are urging the Obama administration to be preparing a bolder offer, or at least to offer further clarification on a “road map” for resolving the nuclear dispute, beyond the confidence-building measure, which is focused on curbing Iran’s 20% enrichment.

“The administration ought to be going into these talks with an open mind and thoughts about how the negotiating process can be most usefully advanced,” Suzanne Maloney, a former State Department Iran expert at the Brookings Institution, told Al-Monitor Monday.

“If they genuinely believe that the last offer given to Iran is the best that can be done, then I understand why they might stick with it,” Maloney said.  “I would tend to believe that the political openings that have been clearly articulated by the election and subsequent comments from Iran really do create some incentive for returning to the table with a more creative package.”

Rouhani, who is to be inaugurated on August 3rd, is reported to have set up committees to review the country’s ministries and policies, including Iran’s negotiations with the P5+1. One idea reportedly under consideration, according to Aseman Weekly, is the possibility of transferring Iran’s nuclear negotiations file from the Supreme National Security Council to the president’s office, Al-Monitor's Iran Pulse reported Tuesday.

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