Two days of intensive talks in Moscow between Iran and the six world powers on the Islamic Republic's disputed nuclear program ended without any breakthroughs on Tuesday. But, it was agreed to hold expert meetings in the Turkish metropolis Istanbul on July 3, followed by lower-level meetings.
Iranian delegation to the Moscow negotiations was led by chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, while the P5+1 group comprising the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany was headed by EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton.
After Tuesday's talks, Ashton said the upcoming talks in Istanbul would be between experts from each country. The meeting will be followed by contact at the deputy-level between diplomats from Tehran and Brussels. Later, Ashton will get in touch with Jalili to discus "prospects for a future meeting at the political level."
"We set out our respective positions in what were detailed, tough and frank exchanges. However, it remains clear that there are significant gaps between the substance of the two positions," Ashton said.
"The choice is Iran's. We expect Iran to decide whether it is willing to make diplomacy work, to focus on reaching agreement on concrete confidence-building steps, and to address the concerns of the international community," she added.
The P5+1 group wants Iran to halt enriching uranium to 20 percent level, which can be used for making nuclear weapons, and allow U.N. nuclear inspectors to verify the so-claimed peaceful intentions of Iran's disputed nuclear activity.
According to Ashton, the proposals put forward by the P5+1 group at the Moscow talks combined new and old ones aimed at persuading Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program in exchange for concessions.
The P5+1 group wants Iran to stop its 20 percent uranium enrichment activities, shut down the Fordow nuclear facility and ship out stockpiled 20 percent enriched nuclear materials in exchange for reciprocal steps offered to Tehran as an initial confidence-building measure. In return, they have offered to supply medical isotopes and provide co-operation on nuclear safety.
Although Iran insists that its nuclear activity is intended for peaceful civilian purposes, the West suspects the claim to be a cover up for the country's nuclear weapon ambitions. Nevertheless, Tehran argues that it has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes as it is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Iran is reeling under sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council following its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. Analysts believe that Russia and China, both Iranian allies, are unlikely to support further U.N. sanctions against Tehran over the issue.
However, the United States and its allies, including the European Union, have imposed separate sanctions on the country targeting its oil and banking sectors after a report released by the IAEA in November cautioned that Tehran may be planning to develop nuclear weapons.
The Moscow negotiations were the second to be held between Iran and the P5+1 nations this year. During the first round of negotiations held in Istanbul in April, the participants had agreed to tackle the issue through step-by-step negotiations and by responding to the progress made by initiating reciprocity actions.
Iran's participation in the talks are mainly for convincing the P5+1 nations to lift their individual as well as U.N. sanctions currently imposed on Tehran. Experts say the Western sanctions are beginning to take an adverse effect on Iran's oil-based economy.
by RTT Staff Writer
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