U.S. expert: All sides interested in reaching agreement during P-5+1 talks with Iran
Azerbaijan, Baku, Nov. 22 / Trend T. Konyayeva /
All sides are interested in reaching an agreement during the new "P-5+1" talks with Iran in December, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center and former U.S. Defense Department employee Barry Blechman told Trend today.
"The international community, represented by the P-5+1, would like reassurance that Iran's nuclear program is not capable of quickly producing nuclear weapons," he wrote Trend in an e-mail. "Iran would like to end and reverse its growing international isolation and economic damage, resulting from the U.N. sanctions."
In early November, Iran offered to hold talks on its nuclear program in Istanbul on Nov. 23 or Dec. 5. The proposal was made in a letter to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton. According to media reports, Ashton intends to accept the proposal to hold the meeting of the "P-5+1" (Russia, the United States, China, the UK, France and Germany) on Dec. 5, but proposed to hold the talks in Geneva.
Iran's negotiations with the six countries were suspended in 2009 after the IAEA Board of Governors adopted a resolution condemning Iran for building a second uranium enrichment plant near the Iranian city of Qom and called upon Tehran to reveal any undeclared nuclear facilities.
Blechman said the talks can begin with an agreement on how to refuel the Tehran medical and research reactor, as this is a real need for Iran.
In the plan from last October, which was called the "Vienna Agreement," Iranian low-enriched uranium was to be exported to Russia for enrichment with the IAEA's mediation, and then to France for processing into fuel for the Tehran reactor.
A trilateral uranium exchange agreement between Iran, Turkey and Brazil was reached on May 17. The foreign ministers of these countries signed the draft of the so-called Tehran Declaration to exchange Iranian low-enriched uranium for highly enriched fuel for the reactor. According to the document, it would be exchanged on Turkish territory.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry's website reported that the Islamic Republic is "ready to discuss (in forthcoming talks) the issue of the exchange of low-enriched uranium to 20 percent enriched uranium based only on the Tehran agreement. "
"They cannot stop there, however, but should continue on broader questions concerning Iran's nuclear program that have been raised by the IAEA and U.N. Security Council, with the purpose of permitting Iran to continue its peaceful uses of nuclear energy under verifiable international safeguards - just like all other nations," Blechman said.
Earlier, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the upcoming talks will adderss global international problems, but not the nuclear program.
Ashton, in turn, said the forthcoming talks will address all aspects of Iran's nuclear program, but Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast called the discussion on this issue with the P-5+1 "unacceptable."
According to Blechman, the international community should continue to pressure Iran through sanctions, but, take also advantage of the leverage provided by those sanctions to reenergize its efforts to engage Iran diplomatically.
The U.N. Security Council adopted another resolution, which provides for new sanctions against Tehran in connection with its refusal to cease uranium enrichment on June 9. This is the fourth resolution adopted by the council due to Tehran's unwillingness to comply with international requirements concerning the Iranian nuclear program.
After adopting Resolution 1929, the U.S. Congress passed a bill on unilateral anti-Iran sanctions on June 24.
Later, in July, EU leaders, and later foreign ministers, proposed at a meeting in Brussels additional sanctions against Iran. On Oct. 25, EU foreign ministers approved imposing additional sanctions against Iran at a meeting in Luxembourg.
"This should include a positive attitude in the nuclear talks (see above), but also the opportunity for Iran to discuss a range of issues of common concern, such as Afghanistan and drug trafficking, with the United States bilaterally, or in multilateral forums," Blechman said.
He added that the United States should also permit its diplomats to interact with Iranian diplomats in the normal manner when in third countries or multinational organizations.
"As progress is made on the nuclear issue, the United States and its allies should be prepared to help Iran reform its failing oil and gas industry and work with it to solve such region-wide problems as shortages of water and electricity," he said.
According to the expert, both the international community and Iran have much to gain from a progressive resolution to these long outstanding problems.