|Only nuclear issues will be discussed in Iran-U.S. talks: negotiator||
TEHRAN – Iranian and U.S. officials will only discuss issues related to Tehran’s nuclear program in their planned meeting in Geneva, a top Iranian nuclear negotiator has said.
“In these negotiations, which will be held before official talks with the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany), only nuclear issues will be discussed,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said on Monday.
Senior Iranian and U.S. officials are scheduled to meet in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday. The meeting will be held in line with the political consultations between Iran’s delegation and some delegations of the 5+1 group at the deputy ministerial level, ahead of the next round of political-level nuclear talks, which will be held in Vienna from June 16 to 20.
Another meeting will be held between Iran and the Russian delegation in Rome on June 11 and 12.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, who reportedly led Iran-U.S. negotiations that helped bring about an interim nuclear agreement between Tehran and the major powers last year, will head the U.S. delegation, which will include Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the primary U.S. negotiator in Iran’s nuclear talks, and Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser.
Araqchi said, “Mr. Burns had previously participated in the negotiations. He played an effective role in (the) Geneva (talks) and we hope that his participation in the talks will be positive.”
The senior negotiator also said that he and Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Majid Takht-Ravanchi will lead the Iranian delegation in the talks.
In addition, he said, “Because this time the talks (with the major powers) have reached a critical point, we want to hold separate consultations (with the United States).”
Elsewhere in his remarks, he said that it is likely that Iran will hold bilateral negotiations with several European countries before the Vienna talks.
In their latest round of political-level talks in Vienna, Iran and the major powers made little progress in building on the landmark interim nuclear deal they clinched last November in Geneva.
Under the Geneva deal, Iran agreed not to expand its nuclear program for six months in exchange for limited sanctions relief. The agreement came into force on January 20. Iran and the major powers have set a July 20 deadline to clinch a long-term nuclear deal to resolve the decade-old dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Commenting on the planned talks between Iran and the U.S., a senior U.S. official told Reuters on Saturday, “In order to really seriously test whether we can reach a diplomatic solution with Iran on its nuclear program, we believe we need to engage in very active and very aggressive diplomacy.”
“We’re at a critical moment,” the U.S. official added. “We’ve always said that we would engage bilaterally with the Iranians if it can help advance our efforts, in active coordination with the P5+1.”
Reuters also quoted a French diplomatic source as saying the talks between Iran and the U.S. were being carried out in concert with the rest of the major powers, which the U.S. official confirmed.
“This meeting is in consultation with the other five. There are specific American aspects regarding lifting of sanctions in case of an agreement that they need to go through with the Iranians,” the French diplomatic source said.
Ashton’s spokesman Michael Mann also said EU political director Helga Schmid would join the Iran-U.S. talks, which he said were taking place “in the context of the intensified ... negotiating process with Iran.”
Robert Einhorn, a former top U.S. non-proliferation official, said he viewed the Burns trip as an effort to meet what appears to be an extremely challenging deadline of July 20 to secure a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.
“There were growing concerns, I think, on all sides that the July 20 target date was becoming increasingly difficult to meet,” said Einhorn, now at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington.
“Because the engagement at Bill Burns’ level proved instrumental in reaching the interim agreement in November, I think both sides thought it would be useful to try that channel again,” he added.
In announcing the Burns trip, the U.S. State Department stressed the talks were taking place “in the context of the P5+1 nuclear negotiations led by EU foreign policy chief Cathy Ashton.”
The senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the talks between Iran and the U.S. were not negotiations.
“These are really consultations to exchange views in advance of the next negotiating round in Vienna,” the official said.
The official said Washington was being open about the bilateral consultations with Iran “unlike before when it needed to be kept very discreet to give it the best chance of success.”
The official also claimed, “We haven’t yet seen the kind of realism on the Iranian side that we need to see or seen them make some of the tough choices we’re going to have to see.”
A U.S. official also told AFP on Saturday that direct bilateral talks between Iran and the United States will be “a timely opportunity” to try to advance a nuclear deal.
“These consultations come at an important juncture of the negotiations,” the senior administration official said.
The bilateral talks “will give us a timely opportunity to exchange views in the context of the next P5+1 round in Vienna,” the official added, asking not to be named.
“We believe we need to engage in as much active diplomacy as we can to test whether we can reach a diplomatic solution with Iran on its nuclear program,” the official told AFP.
But the official insisted that the talks in Geneva would not be negotiations, but “consultations to feed into the P5+1 process.”
The Iran-U.S. talks “are not a substitute for the P5+1 process, nor are they intended to establish a parallel track with Iran,” the official insisted.
“We, like other P5+1 states, see value in having bilateral consultations with Iran given our shared interest in reaching a comprehensive agreement to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”
The official confirmed that there was no intention to raise other issues such as the war in Syria during the talks in Geneva.
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