TEHRAN - Mark Fitzpatrick, director for non-proliferation and disarmament at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London, says it is a “good sign” that Iran and the United States held bilateral talks on Tehran’s nuclear issue.
Senior negotiators from Iran and the U.S. held direct nuclear talks on Monday and Tuesday in Geneva. The Iranian team was led by Abbas Araqchi, the deputy foreign minister for legal and international affair. The U.S. delegation was headed by Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the primary U.S. negotiator with Iran, was also on the U.S. team.
“The fact that U.S. and Iranian diplomats are meeting bilaterally in Geneva is a good sign,” Fitzpatrick said. “It demonstrates their seriousness in trying to reach an agreement by the 20 July deadline.”
He added, “By talking quietly in a bilateral setting, the U.S. and Iranian negotiators hope they can find some way around the impasse.”
Fitzpatrick believes that the interim nuclear deal signed between Iran and the six major powers (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, known as the 5+1 group) in November was the “result of direct talks” between the Iranian and U.S. negotiators.
“The Joint Plan of Action that was reached last November came about as the result of direct talks between the United States and Iran,” he noted. “Let us hope that direct bilateral talks can again produce a solution.”
The talks between Iran and the 5+1 group in Vienna last month made little progress. Each side accused the other of having unrealistic demands in negotiations.
“It became clear in the last round of talks between Iran and the six powers that major differences remain to be settled, particularly regarding the allowable size of Iran’s uranium enrichment program.”
Fitzpatrick argued that the major powers made “a major concession” to Iran when they gave up their demand that Iran should stop all its nuclear enrichment activities.
“The six powers made a major concession when they dropped their demand that Iran suspend all enrichment and agreed to the principle that the enrichment program should be based on the principle of practical needs,” he stated.
He also said that the major powers “recognized that the enrichment technology had become a symbol of national sovereignty and could never be removed entirely.”
Russia, France and Germany have also announced that they plan to hold bilateral talks with Tehran over its nuclear program.
“The reason for other nations also to have bilateral talks with Iran is probably face-saving. They do not want it to appear that the United States is Iran’s only negotiating partner,” he noted.