TEHRAN – Iran and world powers held "substantive and forward-looking" talks over Tehran’s nuclear program in Geneva on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to a joint statement issued at the end of the negotiations.
The negotiations were held between representatives from Iran and the six major powers (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, known as the 5+1 group). The two sides agreed to hold further talks in Geneva on November 7 and 8.
The talks in Geneva were the first since Hassan Rouhani took office as president in Iran in August.
The joint statement read, "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.”
Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, led the talks on behalf of the major powers, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif led the Iranian negotiating team during the first day of the talks.
Iran says talks were ‘fruitful’
Zarif described the talks as “fruitful” on Wednesday.
Negotiations would “hopefully be the beginning of a new phase in our relationship,” Zarif told a news conference in Geneva.
Zarif, who presented the Iranian proposal to the 5+1 group in PowerPoint format entitled "Closing Unnecessary Crisis, Opening New Horizons" on Tuesday, said the negotiating partners would need time to "digest and respond to" Iran's proposal.
Details of Iran's proposal have not been released.
“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, 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 added 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 go into details.”
He also said that he is “optimistic about reaching a consensus (with the 5+1 group) on common goals.”
Ashton calls talks most detailed ever
Ashton said the 5+1 group and Iran had had "their most detailed talks ever" on Iran's nuclear program.
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."
Talks were detailed and substantive: U.S.
The lead U.S. negotiator for Iran’s nuclear program called the talks “detailed” and “substantive.”
“Foreign Minister Zarif and his delegation came prepared for detailed, substantive discussion with a candor that I certainly have not heard in the two years I’ve been meeting with Iranians,” U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday, adding that her Western colleagues who had more experience with Iran agreed.
These initial talks covered the counties’ objectives – Sherman said that negotiators knew they were unlikely to immediately reach concrete agreements.
“This is highly technical work, when you’re talking about a nuclear program,” she said.
These talks were for the first time conducted in English, which Sherman said “increased the pace the ability to have direct and candid discussions.”
She would not go into the specifics of what was discussed, saying that the seriousness of diplomatic talks are often gauged by the tightness of the lid put on press leaks.
“They have given us their thoughts, their ideas; we’ve given them our thoughts, our ideas,” Sherman said.
Sherman was upbeat about the tone of discussions with Iran, but emphasized that on substantive issues there were still large gaps to bridge.
“Nothing has yet been agreed. No steps have been taken to relieve sanctions in any way, shape, or form, because we have a lot of work left to do to begin to take those steps,” she said. “But these two days were an important predicate to that kind of agreement, both in a confidence-building way and in a final agreement.”
Russia says talks were ‘quite promising’
Russia said on Thursday that the negotiations were "quite promising" and Tehran's new proposals could produce progress toward ending the standoff between global powers and Iran, Reuters reported.
"I would not understate the importance of this round," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.
"In our view, although it was very tough, it was quite, quite promising," Lukashevich said at a weekly briefing.
Talks created fresh opportunities: China
In addition, China called on all parties on Thursday to seize the opportunities that have emerged after the latest round of talks on the Iranian nuclear issue, Xinhua reported.
"China has always maintained that a solution based on dialogue and negotiation is in the interests of all parties. The new round of talks on Iran has created fresh opportunities in this regard," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily news briefing.
"We hope all parties can take a flexible, pragmatic attitude to accommodate each other's concerns and have substantive negotiations in order to achieve progress at an early date," Hua said.
China is committed to the talks and will continue to be active in the dialogue between the six nations and Iran, she added.
She reiterated China will play a constructive role in resolving the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomatic and peaceful means.
France says treating Iran's nuclear overture with caution
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Thursday that Paris is treating Iranian overtures to the international community over its nuclear program with caution and is waiting to see concrete proposals, Reuters reported.
"We are waiting for substantive change," Fabius told parliament.
There's a real opportunity to make progress: Britain
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Wednesday he felt the opening day of talks was "useful" and featured what he called "serious discussion," VOA reported.
"There's a real opportunity to make progress in these talks and I urge Iran to seize that opportunity both today and in the weeks to come."
Geneva talks were a successful start: Germany
In a statement issued on Thursday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said, “The talks in Geneva strengthen our hope that a diplomatic solution which completely removes our concerns about the nature of Iran’s nuclear program is possible,” germany.info reported.
“This was a successful start to serious, substantive talks. We want to continue these quickly.”