Claims of progress as Iran nuclear talks wrap up (+video)
Talks between Iran, the US, and other powers over Iran's nuclear program ended in Geneva today with no revelations about details, but a pledge to meet again in November.
Iran and six world powers say they made substantive progress during two days of nuclear talks in Geneva, tentatively breaking 18 months of failure to negotiate limits to Iran’s nuclear program.Skip to next paragraph
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But senior American, Iranian, and European officials cautioned that differences remain, even if the tenor and pace of discussions has been transformed by a new Iranian negotiating team.
Iran laid out a new roadmap of what it was willing to do to permanently allay fears that its nuclear program is for more than peaceful purposes. The country also laid out what relief it expects in return from a US-engineered array of global sanctions.
The Geneva nuclear talks are a key test of centrist President Hassan Rouhani, who won a surprise victory in June elections promising to solve the nuclear problem with “transparency,” and ease sanctions that have damaged Iran’s economy.
“I have never had such intense, detailed, straightforward, candid conversations with the Iranian delegation before,” said a senior US administration official, a veteran of half a dozen such formal rounds of Iran nuclear talks, in a background briefing with reporters. “There is more work – much more work – to do, as we knew there would be,” the official said. “Any agreement has to give the United States and the world every confidence that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon.”
Iran and the permanent five members of the UN Security Council (the US, Russia, China, Britain, and France) and Germany – the so-called P5+1 group that has negotiated with Iran since early 2012 – agreed to meet again on Nov. 7-8 in Geneva.
They also agreed not to discuss specific details of the Iranian proposal or the P5+1 reaction to it, clearly aware that fierce critics of any compromise – in Iran among hardliners, and in the US among some in Congress, the pro-Israel lobby, and in Israel itself – are ready to pounce.
“We took a very important step in the talks … some serious give-and-take was exchanged,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who made Iran’s presentation, told journalists after the talks. “This first step … has been taken on a rather difficult road. It needs time, and of course with seriousness, and good will and concrete steps, hopefully we will continue on the road,” Mr. Zarif said.
Zarif said he was “looking at the future with some hope" and said Iran would expect sanctions relief as part of any agreement.
Yet neither Iran nor the P5+1 took concrete steps or made specific commitments in Geneva, which might bolster arguments against domestic critics. Still, analysts noted signs of potential progress – certainly compared to past, painstaking negotiating rounds in Istanbul, Baghdad, Moscow, and Almaty, Kazakhstan.
“The fact that they are on the same page about the structure of the process at this stage is a breakthrough,” says Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, after hearing European, Iranian US comments on the talks in Geneva. “Both sides are going to be careful not to overplay it, but I thought it was clear that the Iranians had a more positive and optimistic tone … partly because it is their proposal that is now at the center of negotiations."