The European Union confirmed Monday the earlier agreed technical-level talks between Iran and the six world powers on the Islamic Republic's disputed nuclear program will begin in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Tuesday.
The development comes after the last round of negotiations between the P5+1 group of nations, comprising the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, and Iran ended in Moscow last month without any breakthroughs.
Nevertheless, it was agreed in Moscow that expert-level meetings on the issue would be held in the Turkish metropolis Istanbul on July 3, followed by by contact at the deputy-level between diplomats from Tehran and Brussels. Iranian delegation to the Moscow talks was led by chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, while the P5+1 group was headed by EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton.
In a statement released Monday, the EU said the forthcoming meeting of technical experts in Istanbul is aimed at providing further clarifications to the proposals put forward by the P5+1 group in earlier negotiations, increasing the understanding of Iranian response to those proposals and studying the issues raised by Iranians in Moscow.
"We hope Iran will seize the opportunity of this meeting to show a willingness to take concrete steps to urgently meet the concerns of the international community, to build confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program and to meet its international obligations," Ashton said in the statement.
The P5+1 group wants Iran to halt enriching uranium to 20 percent level, which can be used for making nuclear weapons, and allow UN nuclear inspectors to verify the so-claimed peaceful intentions of Iran's disputed nuclear activity. The proposals were 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. In return, they have offered to supply medical isotopes and provide co-operation on nuclear safety.
Although Iran insists 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 being a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Iran is currently reeling under sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council over Teheran's 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 Iran, 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.
Incidentally, an EU oil embargo on Iran took effect on July 1, while a new US sanction targeting financial institutions that engage in transactions with Iran's central bank and oil sector came into effect on June 28.
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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