Ashton-Jalili chat for an hour: “Moscow is a green light”


European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton had a one hour phone conversation with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Monday evening, after several days of bickering between western and Iranian negotiators about preparations for upcoming nuclear talks in Moscow.

“Moscow is a green light,” a western diplomat told Al Monitor Monday was the upshot of the call.

Ashton, in the call, updated Iran’s chief negotiator, Dr. Saeed Jalili, on the conclusions of the six nation international negotiating group, which met in Strasbourg Monday.

“Jalili went on and on about need for a technical meeting,” a European diplomat told Al Monitor on condition he not be identified. “Ashton stayed firm.”

The Iranians “have now backed down from that and appear prepared to engage on our proposals, which is important for us,” he added. “We will respond to their ideas.”

Ashton and Jalili “agreed on the need for Iran to engage on the E3+3 proposals, which address its concerns on the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program,” a statement from a spokesperson for Ashton said.

“She also conveyed the E3+3’s readiness to respond to the issues raised by the Iranians in Baghdad.”

The Ashton-Jalili conversation–the first since difficult nuclear talks in Baghdad last month–comes after several days of rancorous correspondence between the deputy European and Iranian negotiators over preparations for the upcoming Moscow talks. Among the low-points: Iran’s deputy nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri reportedly claimed he never received a copy of a detailed confidence building proposal presented by the international group to Iran in Baghdad last month, the Guardian reports. (The EU’s Helga Schmid resent the proposal Monday, “as Iran seemingly ignores the existence of the paper (which had been handed over by DSG [Schmid] to [Bagheri]  personally in Baghdad on May 23),” a western diplomat said, reflecting evident frustration from the last few days interactions with Tehran.

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Iran’s economy minister tells Al-Monitor: “Our goals are clear”

Shamseddin Hosseini, Iran’s economy minister and representative to the World Bank, is one of the only senior Iranian officials to regularly visit Washington, which of course has not had diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic for over thirty years.

In a wide-ranging interview with me for Al-Monitor, Hosseini, 44, said that Iran is looking to make progress at the upcoming nuclear talks, but sought to portray Iran as not overly eager or anxious about the recently renewed diplomatic process.

“If the question is, ‘during these talk and dialogue, based on our positions, will we still seek progress,’ of course, the answer is yes,” Hosseini told me in an interview at Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York Friday.

“Our goals are clear,” he continued. “They are safekeeping of the goals of the Iranian people. We will be steadfast in the future.”

On sanctions, Hosseini warned that new sanctions targeting Iran’s oil exports could hurt the economies of those imposing the sanctions. “Can one grow without using energy?” he asked. “For that very reason, you see, pressures have reached a point that those who bring that pressure to bear complain about the pain.”

Read the full piece here: