Iran nuclear talks: Why all sides kept positive
The talks Saturday between Iran and six major powers featured the most positive atmosphere in nearly a decade.
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Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, made clear that "right" meant that Iran would continue uranium enrichment inside Iran – activities that UN Security Council resolutions currently require suspended until Iran resolves outstanding questions about possible past weapons-related work.Skip to next paragraph
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The Europeans and Americans will likewise rely on that formulation to push Iran to accept a most intrusive inspection regime to satisfy themselves Iran is not moving toward a bomb.
"We said that something should be done to gain and obtain the confidence of Iranians," Mr. Jalili told the Monitor in an interview after the talks.
"The important point is that we believe the American people are paying a severe cost for [believing] false and imaginary threats" about the dangers of Iran, said Jalili. War fears have helped boost oil prices, and therefore the price at the pump.
Iran's negotiator: 'great opportunity'
Iran's stated opposition to weapons of mass destruction – including nuclear weapons – is a "great opportunity," Jalili said. The Iranian negotiating team detected significant change at the negotiating table.
"They should not speak to Iranians with the language of threats and a strategy of pressure," Jalili told the Monitor. "We consider it a step forward, and a positive one, when after 15 months they themselves change their attitudes and approach, and say we want to have talks for cooperation."
On the European and American side, there was a belief that it was Iran that had dramatically adjusted its approach. In some previous talks, Iran refused to discuss its nuclear program at all; in January last year, two preconditions imposed by the Iranian side – that the P5+1 accept Iranian enrichment at the outset, and the lifting of UN sanctions – scuttled the talks before an agenda could even be set.
In the new attempts to resolve Iran's nuclear issue, Ashton said, Iran and the P5+1 agreed to be "guided by [a] step-by-step approach and reciprocity."
For Iran that would mean a swift lifting of sanctions with every step that it took. But yesterday US and European diplomats indicated that sanctions processes – including an oil sales embargo, due to fully come into effect on July 1 – will continue.
US skepticism remains
"If you hear skepticism from me, and wariness, we haven't talked to the Iranians for 15 months," said the senior US administration official.
"There is no reason to believe, yet, that we will make all the progress that we want to make," said the US official. "There is reason to believe there is an environment that may be conducive to doing that, but it has not been fully tested yet. We do not yet have those concrete actions-for-actions that have been agreed to, and there is an enormous amount of work ahead.... We have a lot of distrust to overcome on both sides."
The US team was led by US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who in the past was involved in negotiations with North Korea.
One positive Iranian signal before the talks was a profile of Ms. Sherman by the hardline Mashregh News website, which had an "unusually mild" tone, according to a translation by Tehran Bureau. The story said Sherman "is known in diplomatic circles as the 'door opener.'"