Iran talks "constructive and useful"

The BBC reports The EU’s Catherine Ashton as saying that talks in Istanbul today between the P5+1 and Iran were “constructive and useful”. The AP puts some meat on those bones:

Diplomats said before the meeting began that even general Iranian readiness to accept the need to discuss its enrichment program would be considered enough of a success to warrant a follow-up round.

One of the diplomats, who demanded anonymity because he was sharing information from a closed session, said the Iranians appeared to be moving toward that goal, engaging in discussion about the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

He said the Iranian team had mentioned supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “fatwa,” or prohibition, of nuclear weapons for Iran, in the course of the plenary discussions.

…”I would say there was a very constructive atmosphere compared to last time … generally a positive vibe,” he said. “The principle seems to be there for future negotiations.”

Ashton told reporters later that future talks will be guided by the “principle of a step-by-step approach and reciprocity”, which is a good sign as it shows both sides may be willing to bargain, however there was no bilateral side meeting between the US and Iran, at Iran’s insistence. That said,

IRNA said Iranian diplomats in Istanbul did hold bilateral meetings yesterday with Russian delegates and with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, the main representative of the negotiating group of international powers, as well with the Turkish hosts, who are not party to the negotiations.

See Cheryl’s post yesterday for more on telltale signs the talks might be going well.

Now, on to the next round in Baghdad on May 23rd.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

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  • I think that by the signs suggested by Hibbs et al. that I quoted, nothing bad has happened so far. Not all the boxes are checked, but this is going to be a long process.

  • …in the way of an official statement from the P5+1 (E3+3) is this:

    Statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton on behalf of the E3+3 following the talks with Iran, Istanbul, 14 April 2012

    The EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, together with the Political Directors of China, France, Germany, Russian Federation, United States and the United Kingdom, met on 14 April 2012 in Istanbul with the Iranian nuclear negotiator Dr. Saed Jalili in order to address the international community’s concerns on the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programme.

    “The parties would, first of all, like to thank the Turkish government for hosting the talks.
    The discussions on the Iranian nuclear issue have been constructive and useful, reflecting the terms and spirit of our recent exchange of letters with Iran. We have agreed that the NPT forms a key basis for what must be serious engagement, to ensure all the obligations under the NPT are met by Iran while fully respecting Iran’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

    We want now to move to a sustained process of serious dialogue, where we can take urgent practical steps to build confidence and lead on to compliance by Iran with all its international obligations. In our efforts to do so, we will be guided by the principle of the step-by-step approach and reciprocity.

    We expect that subsequent meetings will lead to concrete steps towards a comprehensive negotiated solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programme. This is why we will meet again soon, on 23 May in Baghdad, preceded by a preparatory meeting of deputies.”

    pdf link

    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

  • …of time between now and 23 May for those who would not like to see an accommodation reached to launch some major FUD* campaigns. The bullshit is already deep, but it may approach epic. Of course, on the other side we’ll also get to watch folks make absolutist proclamations about how permissive the NPT regime – on paper – is without caring a whit for the long-term downsides. The fun of this is underwhelming me at the moment.

    * Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt

    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

  • Julian Borger | 15 April

    The Guardian (Blog) – After ten hours of intensive talks in Istanbul, diplomats from Iran and six global powers agreed to meet again, in Baghdad on May 23. Not an enormous achievement on the face of it, but it looks better when you consider the context. The parties had not met since January last year, and on that occasion in Istanbul, it was a dialogue of the deaf. They made speeches at each other and then left with no agreement on further dialogue.

    Fifteen months on, an oil embargo is imminent, Iran is shut out of much of the international banking system, and the constantly rising threat Israeli military strikes makes a new Middle East war a real possibility. So when Iran and the six-power group emerged from a day of talks, all singing from the same song sheet, talking about constructive talks and concrete steps, it is a significant development.

    In fact, there will be more detailed negotiations before May 23. Experts from all sides are supposed to be in constant touch from now on, with a meeting in the next few weeks planned between Helga Schmid, a senior European diplomat, and Ali Bagheri, the deputy Iranian negotiator. These two did all the spade work for the Istanbul meeting and will now draw up an agenda for Baghdad which will explore the various concrete compromises that could be made, trading limits on Iran’s nuclear programme for moderating western sanctions.


    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

  • The opportunity is there, but statements leading up to Saturday’s meeting were relatively measured on all sides, so we may see continuing moderation. Israel has been uncharacteristically quiet, and today (Sunday), Prime Minister Netanyahu is grousing but not jumping up and down with threats and apocalyptic visions.

    The New York Times’s report, which has its anti-Iranian aspects, simply notes the NPT framing without feeling it necessary to argue against it. But it’s possible that the NYT reporters aren’t as smart as Patrick Disney and will figure out the implications later.

    The UNSC resolutions were pushed by the Bush administration, which probably wanted war with Iran, too, given their great success in Iraq. But it may be that pretty much everyone now is willing to let the resolutions go. Sarkozy may be the biggest problem there, but there’s a lever: the price of oil.

  • I got distracted.

    I also intended to say that there is now a lot of homework for both negotiating sides to do. Positions need to be developed and supported with data and facts, both for the own-side policymakers and for credibility (to the other side and to the world) in the negotiations.

    The P5+1 need to make sure that all six are willing to put forth a position and to follow up in particular ways. That could well include a start on getting Congress to consider that someday sanctions might end, for example. Iran needs to work out its internal disagreements.

    And there seems to have been a mention of technical meetings, which might indicate that technical types from both sides would meet with each other to clarify the meanings of and limits on issues to be discussed. This kind of low-level stuff goes on in every serious negotiation and treaty; for example, Russians and Americans continue to meet on the implementation of the New START Treaty. Few reporters and editors find it interesting. And, by and large, the countries involved are happier to do this out of sight. It wouldn’t get done if it were subjected to the kind of hysterics that characterizes too much media coverage. “Arithmetic mistake as Brits suggest a minute change in approach! Does this end the special relationship?” Better to point this out across the table, correct it, and move on.

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