Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif describes two days of nuclear talks between Tehran and major powers in Geneva as “fruitful”.
Negotiations between Iran and the six major powers (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, known as the 5+1 group) started on Tuesday and ended on Wednesday. The two sides agreed to resume talks on November 7 and 8.
Negotiations would “hopefully be the beginning of a new phase in our relationship,” Zarif, who led the Iranian nuclear team, told a news conference in Geneva.
Zarif on Tuesday presented the Iranian proposal to the 5+1 group in PowerPoint format titled “Closing Unnecessary Crisis, Opening New Horizons.”
Zarif said the negotiating partners would need time to “digest and respond to” Iran’s proposal.
“We entered the talks in New York and Geneva seriously and the representatives of the 5+1 group also showed that they are serious,” Zarif noted.
Zarif was referring to his talks with his counterparts from the 5+1 group in New York in September. The talks took place on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly meeting.
The chief Iranian diplomat went on to say that during the talks in Geneva the two sides “discussed details but we need to do more in-depth negotiations and continue discussions at the level of experts and we will continue the work on November 7 and 8.”
However, he said, “I will not enter the details.”
Zarif said, “The common goal is to get assurances about the peaceful nature of Iran’s (nuclear) program and upholding the rights of the Iranian people… and our interest entails to allay reasonable concerns.”
He also said that he is “optimistic about reaching a consensus (with the 5+1 group) on common goals.”
He added, “Of course, we have now entered a serious stage.”
Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, was the lead negotiator who represented the 5+1 group in talks with Iran in Geneva.
‘Substantive and forward-looking’ talks
In a joint statement Ashton and Zarif described the two-day talks “substantive and forward-looking”.
“The participants also agreed that E3+3 [the European Union trio of Germany, Britain, and France plus the U.S., China and Russia] and Iranian nuclear, scientific and sanctions experts will convene before the next meeting to address differences and to develop practical steps,” the statement added.
‘Most detailed talks’
Ashton also said the 5+1 group and Iran have had “their most detailed talks ever” on Iran’s nuclear program.
Tehran says the West must recognize its right to uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes as allowed under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a signatory.
Michael Mann, a spokesman for Ashton, told reporters on Tuesday that the Iranian proposal was “very useful”.
Abbas Araqchi, the Iranian deputy foreign minister and lead nuclear negotiator, said the Iranian proposal set out a timeline of six months to get to a deal.
The 5+1 group wants Iran reduce the level of its uranium enrichment and sign the additional protocol to the NPT which allows unannounced inspection of its nuclear sites.
However, Araqchi was quoted as saying: “Neither of these issues are within the first step [of the Iranian proposal] but form part of our last steps.”
Speaking before the talks began on Tuesday, a senior U.S. official said the aim was to make progress towards an interim confidence-building deal that would defuse tensions and buy time for a more comprehensive solution to the standoff.
The official said the announcement by Araqchi days before the Geneva talks that Iran would not ship out enriched uranium as part of a deal was not a critical problem. “There’s a variety of ways of dealing with that,” she said, the Guardian reported.
“To get to a comprehensive agreement is very, very difficult with highly technical issues that have to be resolved. We are looking for a confidence-building step that will put some time on the clock,” the official said.
She pointed out that the U.S. delegation included financial experts; evidence that Washington was ready to talk about scaling down sanctions in response to Iranian concessions. “If they are ready to go, we are ready to go,” she said.
The talks between Iran and the 5+1 group in Geneva was the first of its kind since Hassan Rouhani took office as president in Iran in August.
During a visit to the annual UN General Assembly in September, Rouhani’s diplomatic approach raised hopes of a thaw in relations between Iran and the West and progress in negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear program.