Last Update: 12 November 2012 16:54 GMT
TEHRAN – The Russian government has for the first time publicly encouraged the United States and Iran to begin direct one-to-one negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program, arguing that the creation of a negotiating channel between Washington and Tehran could help avert conflict, the Financial Times reported on Saturday.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow would like to see Washington and Tehran enter direct diplomatic contact in order to avert an Israeli attack on the Iranian program.
Until now, Moscow has been directly involved in negotiations with Iran because it is one of the six powers that negotiate in a body called the E3 plus 3 (the European trio of Britain, France, Germany plus Russia, China, and the U.S.).
Asked in a Financial Times interview how Moscow would respond if the U.S. and Iran were to focus on direct talks, Mr. Ryabkov said, “We will not have a word against this. Of course, we would hope we would be informed on the content of these arrangements.”
Mr. Ryabkov, who is Russia’s chief negotiator on the Iranian nuclear issue, added, “Informal contacts are ongoing, but direct talks are possible. Such an arrangement will not create a problem for us, even if there is not a fully fledged E3 plus 3. We are down to earth – we want something that will bring everyone out of this morass.”
Diplomats in a number of Western states have said privately for some time that a direct U.S.-Iran dialogue would be needed once the U.S. presidential election was over. But it is unusual for one of the E3 plus 3 diplomats negotiating with Iran to say so in public.
Mr. Ryabkov said that E3 plus 3 dialogue with Iran should continue, whatever happened in bilateral relations between Washington and Tehran. He said the six powers had created some momentum at a meeting with Iran at Istanbul this year, but this had now been lost.
“Since everybody knows the name of the U.S. president, it is no excuse not to enter into discussions. We are of the view that no more chances must be lost,” he said.
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