News / Middle East

Column: Iran Nuclear Talks in Geneva Get Down to Details

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) gestures next to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton , Oct. 15, 2013.Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) gestures next to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton , Oct. 15, 2013.
x
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) gestures next to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton , Oct. 15, 2013.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) gestures next to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton , Oct. 15, 2013.
From the European venue to the power point presentation in English, this week’s nuclear negotiations with Iran showed a new seriousness that bodes well for a future agreement, even if it does not guarantee one.

Iranian officials from U.S.-educated Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on down spoke in English, dispensing with time-consuming translations, and outlined a new proposal specifying an “endgame” to the nuclear dispute and a staged process to get there.

Both sides brought technical experts who began to discuss the proposal in detail while agreeing to meet again before another plenary session Nov. 7-8 in Geneva -- not Almaty or Baghdad or somewhere else logistically difficult, as prior Iranian negotiators have demanded.  The Iranians also dispensed with their usual litany of complaints against the West for imposing sanctions on Iran and for what they say is a “double standard” that holds Iran to a greater degree of compliance with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty than other signatories.

At the end, Zarif and EU high representative for foreign affairs Catherine Ashton issued a joint statement – something which has not occurred in previous rounds.
The statement described the talks as “substantive and forward looking,” and said that Iran’s outline was “being carefully considered” by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China (the P5+1) and that “nuclear, scientific and sanctions experts will convene before the next meeting to address differences and to develop practical steps."

In a brief press conference that followed, Ashton said that the two days of talks were “the most detailed we’ve ever had by a long way” and that both sides had set out their positions on “a number of issues.”

While the Iranian proposal – and the P5+1 positions – were not made public, Iranian officials have suggested that they are willing to limit the quality and quantity of their nuclear program and accept more stringent international monitoring in return for sanctions relief and outside acceptance of some level of uranium enrichment on Iranian soil. These officials have also made clear that they do not expect the U.S. Congress to repeal sanctions at the start of the process – something Congress assuredly would not do – but hope the U.S. executive branch will use its authority to ease pressure on the Iranian economy in return for the Iranian steps - and convince Congress not to pass new sanctions.

The composition of the U.S. team was instructive in that regard. Among the participants was Adam Szubin, head of the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which polices U.S. and international financial transactions with the Islamic Republic to make sure they abide by U.S. law. There is much that Szubin could do to signal U.S. goodwill, including opening a direct U.S.-Iran banking channel for trade in humanitarian goods such as food and medicine. While U.S. law exempts such trade from sanctions, U.S. medicine in particular has not been getting into Iran because U.S. suppliers can’t find a practical method of getting paid. The same problem applies to European humanitarian transactions with Iran.

Iran, of course, also needs to show good faith by not adding to its stockpile of low-enriched uranium and to the 10,000 centrifuges currently spinning away in its nuclear facilities. It would also help if a reactor at Arak -- which when operational, would produce plutonium, another potential bomb fuel – is not completed.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, in a statement released on Wednesday at the conclusion of the Geneva talks, said he welcomed “the more positive approach taken by the Iranian Government,” that Zarif “presented a basis for negotiations and … diplomats have for the first time begun more substantive discussions with Iran on how to address the international community's serious concerns about Iran's nuclear program.”

But Hague continued, “we should not forget that Iran’s nuclear program is continuing to develop,” while the talking continues. “There is a great deal of hard work ahead, but we must not waste this opportunity.”

Barbara Slavin

Barbara Slavin is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center and a correspondent for Al-Monitor.com, a website specializing in the Middle East. She is the author of a 2007 book, Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the US and the Twisted Path to Confrontation, and is a regular commentator on U.S. foreign policy and Iran on NPR, PBS, C-SPAN and the Voice of America.

You May Like

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Davis K. Thanjan from: New York
October 20, 2013 3:42 PM
While negotiation between Iran and P5+ 1 is always welcome, the prolonged negotiation is the Iranian tactic to develop nuclear armament. Once the nuclear bomb is produced, Iran join the company of Pakistan, India, North Korea in defiance of sanctions and nuclear proliferation treaty. The world has to recognize Iran as a nuclear power once the nuclear bomb is produced. Hence there should be a time limit for the nuclear negotiations with Iran. Iran has passed several red lines drawn by the international community. Any nuclear settlement with Iran should include the unhindered access to UN nuclear agency for inspection at any an time and any place before and after the agreement. The international sanctions should be lifted only after full inspection and dismantling of the nuclear equipment to prevent the enrichment. The agreement should include the reinstatement of international sanctions and punitive actions if Iran violate the agreement.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs