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.
(Page 3 of 3)
While Iran has publicly stated a readiness to cap enrichment at 5 percent, it has also declared for years that it will not give up its "inalienable right" – as specified in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) – to enrich uranium.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a recent speech: "If some want us to forgo this right, they should first give their reasons, and second [disclose] what they will give the Iranian nation in return."
While those issues are expected to be at the heart of any deal, Iran has yet to specify in the talks what it will and will not accept, says the European diplomat.
"What [the Iranians] haven't done is [say], 'You know we can't do that, but what we would like to do is this. Can we as an initial step agree that?' says the European diplomat.
"That's not what we've been seeing, and that's why we're saying: 'Let's meet and have a conversation about that,'" he adds. "That's what we call an engagement over substance; that is exactly what the Iranians have not done. [Instead] they have postured, they've argued, they've lowered the tone and increased the volume."
The State Department said Iran had an “opportunity” in Moscow if it came “prepared to take concrete steps in response to the proposals presented in Baghdad.”
'[The P5+1] want Iran to give diamonds for peanuts'
Further complicating the picture for the Iranians is that the P5+1 proposal, while asking Iran to give up what it considers its most important cards, does not simultaneously provide what it most desires: lifting of crippling sanctions. A European oil embargo is due to begin on July 1.
Hossein Mousavian, a former member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team from 2003-05 who is now at Princeton University, told the Tehran Bureau website after the offer was made public last month: "They want Iran to give diamonds in return for peanuts."
That view is widely shared among decisionmakers in Tehran.
"On several occasions they have said, at least the Americans did, that Iran could have below 5 percent enrichment, but now they are asking for something else that is not acceptable to Iran," says the Iranian diplomat in Tehran familiar with the talks. "The next point is that ... they are not ready to ease the unilateral sanctions that are Iran's concern."
If Iran were to accept the P5+1 proposal as is, says the Iranian diplomat, "it would be a great win for them."
European and US officials have stated that their opening bid should be seen only as that, not a deal-breaker. In Iran, there is "confusion about what is an initial step and what is a fundamental step," says the European diplomat.
"We have seen through these exchanges a signpost that tells us how difficult this is going to be," he adds. "If anybody came out of Istanbul [the first round] feeling optimistic, they were given a boost of realism in Baghdad and another bucket of it afterwards."