Iran has tentatively agreed to resume nuclear talks with six world powers on January 28-29, at a location still to be decided, Iranian media reported Wednesday.
However, western negotiators did not confirm the report, saying consultations are ongoing.
“In the context of ongoing consultations to agree on a next round of talks between the E3+3 and Iran, DSG Helga Schmid and Dr. Ali Bagheri spoke on the phone on 14 January,” a spokesperson for European Union foreign policy chief told the Back Channel Wednesday. “Consultations to prepare a next round of talks are ongoing.”
“It is also possible that a final decision on the venue could lead to change in date,” Iran’s Student News Agency (ISNA) said.
Talks have been delayed by Iran haggling over the agenda for the next talks, Al Monitor reported this week. “Iran wants the agenda for a new round of nuclear talks to refer explicitly to sanctions relief and what it views as its right to enrich uranium,” Al Monitor’s Barbara Slavin wrote January 14.
“The E3+3 have repeatedly responded to the points made by Iran and have urged Iran to seriously address the concerns of the international community on the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme,” the statement from Ashton’s spokesperson continued.
The lead US envoy to the talks, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, was in the UK earlier this week for meetings with fellow G8 political directors, the State Department said.
Separately, Iran is hosting a senior team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Tehran Wednesday.
In anticipation of resumed nuclear negotiations, seven former Iranian parliamentarians called in an open letter to President Obama, the EU’s Ashton, and Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei this week for direct US-Iran negotiations and for broader concessions from both sides to achieve a compromise.
“At this juncture, we believe transparent and bilateral dialogue between the U.S. and Iranian governments regarding Iran’s nuclear program would be beneficial and effective,” . the seven former Majles members, including Seyed Aliakbar Mousavi, and Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, both now living in the US, wrote.
“We therefore support such a discussion,” their letter continued. “By providing more guarantees in pursuit of a peaceful resolution to the conflict, the talks could create fertile ground for serious discussions on many outstanding and complicated problems between the two nations.”
Iran analysts said the letter is significant because it shows the wide consensus even among Iranian reformists on the terms of a viable compromise.
“The central gravity logically on this issue comes down to this issue: Iran has to be transparent and its rights have to be respected,” Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council, said.
Update: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Thursday the parties are still trying to firm up a late January date for talks, but it’s not finalized yet, Reuters reports.
(Photo: Diplomats from the UK, US, France, Germany, Russia, and China met with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and deputy Helga Schmid in Brussels in November. EEAS.)