Representatives from Iran and six world powers met in Istanbul today to discuss Iran's nuclear program, the first time such a gathering has taken place in 15 months. Although EU negotiators have described the first day of talks as "positive," official Iranian news sources have been hesitant to characterize the meeting.
The meeting between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China - plus Germany, known as the P5+1, kicked off with morning meetings.
Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, told the press the meetings were very "positive" and showed an improvement over the last gathering in January 2011, which ended without any agreement.
But Press TV, Iran's semi-official media mouthpiece, was reluctant to cast such a rosy picture, reporting "sources close to Iranian negotiators said that it is too early to judge whether the atmosphere of the talks has been positive before hearing the viewpoints of all sides."
The morning meetings were reconvened after a lunch break and indications show further meetings will take place Sunday. There has not yet been word on any breakthroughs. Although the U.S. has repeatedly tried to lower expectations for the meeting, cautious of the possibility of success considering the continuity of Iran's position on its nuclear program, they were optimistic the day before the talks began.
"We believe that the talks that are going forward is a positive sign," National Security Council Deputy Spokesman Ben Rhodes said in a press briefing on Friday. "They provide an opportunity for the international community to being to have a discussion with the Iranian government about how they can live up to their obligations and demonstrate the peaceful intent of their nuclear program."
In an op-ed in the Washington Post Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi criticized the U.S. for selling Iran the capability to create nuclear power and then not trusting them with that capability.
"Forty-five years ago, the United States sold my country a research reactor as well as weapons-grade uranium as its fuel...The U.S. argument was that nuclear power would provide for the growing needs of our economy and free our remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals. That rationale has not changed," he wrote.
Salehi continued with a warning to the P5+1 to treat his country with respect during this weekend's talks. "Being sovereign and independent does not mean that there is no room for dialogue or diplomacy. It means that one enters any debate as an equal, based on mutual respect and justice."
Iran continues to assert their development of nuclear power is for peaceful, civilian purposes only. The U.S. and Europe have imposed a series of increasingly more stringent sanctions on the Islamic Republic in the least year. In the meetings this weekend, Iran hopes to convince the West of its sincerity and to avoid an European oil embargo to begin July 1.
Rhodes couldn't confirm a possible second round of meetings in Baghdad to take place in May, but said, "that's certainly one venue that's been discussed - Baghdad - as a potential future venue."
by RTT Staff Writer
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