Iran nuclear talks are on, but both sides frustrated, say diplomats
Two diplomats close to the Iran nuclear talks – one Iranian and one European – explain the concerns of their respective sides ahead of June 18-19 talks in Moscow.
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Expectations that this third round of talks might be delayed were put to rest tonight during an hour-long telephone conversation between Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
The call came amid increasingly acrimonious exchanges that illustrate the stark challenges that remain to a negotiated solution between Iran and the P5+1 group (comprised of the US, Russia, China, England, France and Germany) represented by Ms. Ashton.
The two "agreed on the need for Iran to engage on the [P5+1] proposals, which address its concerns on the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program," said a statement from Ashton's office.
"She also conveyed the [P5+1's] readiness to respond to the issues raised by the Iranians in Baghdad," said the statement. Ashton gave an "update" to Mr. Jalili on the conclusions of her meeting today with P5+1 officials to "discuss the way forward for the Moscow talks."
Officials from both sides have accused each other of not being "serious" about engagement, of stalling for time, and being unwilling to strike a deal that would calm Western and Israeli fears about Iran ever trying to build a nuclear weapon, lift crippling sanctions on Iran, and avoid possible military strikes by Israel or the US.
A testy exchange of letters included one published late yesterday from Jalili's deputy, Ali Bagheri, to Ashton's deputy, Helga Schmid. The senior Iranian official asked why the P5+1 refused to meet at "experts level" prior to the Moscow talks – the term usually used to describe technical experts who are meant to discuss more detailed aspects of the negotiations. The official warned that without such preparation, "what guarantee will there be for the success of future talks?"