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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid