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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees 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.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More