After weeks of Iranian foot-dragging, western negotiators are pressing Iran to commit to a firm date for resumed nuclear talks.
“We have been very surprised to see Iran come back to us again and again with new pre-conditions on the modalities of the talks, for example by changing the venue and delaying their responses,” a spokesperson for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton responded to a question from the Back Channel Wednesday.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was cited in media reports Wednesday proposing Cairo host the next round of talks with the P5+1.
But western diplomats say such reports are “total spin,” and that in fact, Iran has not yet agreed to a new meeting, in Cairo or anywhere else.
“Several venues have been proposed. We do not exclude any, but Iran is proposing different venues all the time,” a European official said. “Iran appears to be trying to delay the process by coming up with new conditions.”
Russia on Wednesday pointedly pressed Iran to stop giving nuclear negotiators the run-around.
“We think that our Iranian colleagues could be doing this a little faster,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow Wednesday, the AFP reported. Continue reading →
Diplomats from six world powers, meeting in Brussels last week (Nov. 21), called for new talks with Iran as soon as possible.
But as yet, there is no clarity about when the next round of P5+1 Iran talks will happen, diplomats from the United States and Europe told Al-Monitor on Wednesday. “All dates circulating are speculation,” a European diplomat told Al-Monitor Wednesday. “No clarity yet” about a new meeting date, a US official said.
From Washington’s perspective, the feeling is that it’s better to meet as soon as possible. While Israel is currently distracted ahead of Israeli elections in January, there’s a sense in Washington that there’s not very many months to try to get an interim deal before there’s the likelihood of renewed Israeli pressure for possible military action, not to mention that Iran goes into its own campaign mode in the spring ahead of its presidential elections in June.
But chief international negotiator Catherine Ashton’s early December schedule is already pretty booked up, and Iran is due to hold meetings with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Iran December 13th, making it seemingly unlikely a meeting will happen before then. Ashton, just back from Central Asia, where chief US Iran negotiator Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman was also traveling this week, is also due to attend a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels next week.
“I think the problem is that scheduling this thing is just logistically tough,” a Washington non-proliferation expert said, noting that western governments effectively shut down on December 17 for the rest of the year for their holidays, then in early January the Russians shut down for Orthodox calendar holidays. Continue reading →