Iran talks resume in Baghdad after “difficult” first day


Baghdad_Western negotiators seemed somewhat rattled after what they acknowledged was a rough day of talks with Iran over a proposed confidence building measure.

“It has been a difficult day, but not a bad one,” a senior U.S. administration official told journalists on condition of anonymity after talks in Baghdad Wednesday stretched late into the night. “We discussed difficult issues.”

The talks resumed for a second day Thursday, and have gone on longer than anticipated, as international negotiators tried to salvage at least agreement on another meeting date in the near term.

American and European diplomats said they fully expected that the talks in Baghdad would be difficult, as the teams get down to the tough issues of what the international community would be prepared to offer in exchange for Iran curbing some of its most sensitive nuclear work, including its 20% uranium enrichment activities.

But they did not seem to fully anticipate the degree to which the Iranians thought the specific P5+1 package laid out in the closed-door talks Wednesday differed from their understanding of what might be on the table, specifically by offering no prospect for sanctions relief except the provision of civilian aircraft spare parts. (The Iranians did not receive the package in writing, they said, presumably because the P5+1 hasn’t yet made it public.)

Western diplomats have suggested that European Union sanctions on Iran’s oil exports will go ahead July 1 even if Iran gives up its 20% enrichment, sends out its 20% stockpile and closes the fortified Fordo enrichment facility.

“What we heard in Istanbul was more interesting,” a member of the Iranian diplomatic delegation told Reuters.

“We believe the reason (the powers) are not able to reach a result is America,” he said. “(They) came to Baghdad without a clear mandate so we think the atmosphere is difficult.”

“I would have expected nothing else but for the Iranians to say the package is unbalanced,” the senior U.S. administration official said.

“It is not accurate to say there are no sanctions measures put on the table,” the official said, apparently referring to the airplane parts. “We tried to be responsive” to our understanding of what the Iranians may be interested in. Apparently, the package did not fulfill any of those expectations.

“We are at the beginning of the process, not the end of it,” the official said.

The Iranian delegation was meeting with the P5+1 negotiators for a second time Thursday midday.

The meeting is expected to conclude sometime later Thursday afternoon.


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: