Iran’s talks today with six world powers aimed at easing tensions over Tehran’s nuclear programme are much better than the last failed attempt, with good prospects for another round, an EU spokesman said.
“There is a positive atmosphere ... contrasting with the last time” in January 2011, Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, told reporters at the meeting in Istanbul, saying they were “totally different.”
“The principles for future talks seem to be there,” he said, adding that the venue and date for the next round — mooted as in four to six weeks and possibly in Baghdad — would “probably be decided later today.”
The last time Iran met with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany (the P5+1), in January 2011 and also in Istanbul, it quickly became apparent that they would go nowhere, with Tehran refusing to broach the nuclear issue.
The UN Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions on the Islamic republic because of suspicions that its civilian nuclear programme is a cover for a secret atomic weapons drive, a charge Iran vigorously denies.
The main concern of the international community, particularly for Iran’s arch foe Israel, is Tehran’s growing capacity to enrich uranium, which can be used in power generation and other peaceful uses but, when purified further, for a nuclear weapon.
Of particular worry is the formerly secret Fordo site in a mountain bunker near the holy city of Qom, currently enriching to 20 per cent purity but which experts say could be reconfigured to produce 90 per cent weapons grade material.
Fordo’s expansion, plus a major UN atomic agency report in November on alleged “weaponisation” efforts, have led to tighter EU and US sanctions on Iran’s oil sector due to bite this summer and talk of Israeli military strikes.
The EU spokesman said also that all sides in the talks were open to holding bilateral discussions.
According to one Western diplomat, the United States was even ready to hold what would be rare bilateral talks with the Iranian delegation. (AFP)