Talks on Iran's nuclear program to resume on 23 May

After two sessions in one day in Istanbul on Saturday 14 April, six nations agreed to meet again with Iranian delegation on 23 May — in Baghdad.

Baghdad — that’s a strange choice of venue.
[Are we supposed to believe that Iran prefers Baghdad, because it’s annoyed with Turkey?]

Here is a photo of Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili, speaking to the press after today’s talks. The photo was taken by Turkish journalist Mahir Zeynalov [@MahirZeynalov on Twitter], and posted here:

Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili speaking in Istanbul after talks on his country's nuclear program - photo by Mahir Zeynalov

Zeynalov Tweeted that in the photo, “Jalili sticks large Iran map above Istanbul, with big “PERSIAN GULF,” assassinated scientists & message to Israel” —

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi wrote in an opinion piece published Friday in The Washington Post [see below] that “Despite sanctions, threats of war, assassinations of several of our scientists and other forms of terrorism, we have chosen to remain committed to dialogue”.

Persian Gulf is the official name, used by the UN, to refer to that body of water.

Scott Peterson wrote in the Christian Science Monitor that “Above a map of Iran was written a common official slogan: ‘Nuclear energy for all; nuclear weapons for none’….”that slogan, in English,  is visible in the poster above.

Press TV noted here that in the talks, “The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, says Iran insists on the recognition of its rights as stipulated in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)”.

Another story by Press TV reported that “Sources close to the Iranian delegation said Iranian negotiators have rejected multiple requests from US for bilateral negotiations both after the first round of talks and before the beginning of the second round. Meanwhile, the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has met three times with Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili over the past 24 hours”.

Scott Peterson wrote in the Christian Science Monitor here that Jalili “described the talks as ‘successful’, and noted that Khamenei’s fatwa was ‘welcomed’ by the P5+1”. Peterson added that Jalili said the statement, “opposing the use and production of nuclear bombs, was highlighted by the other side … They consider it valuable and it creates an opportunity and capacity for cooperation on international disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation”,

Ashton’s role in these six-nation talks with Iran seems more high-profile than that of previous EU High Representatives.

Details of what went on in the series of bilateral and group meetings in Istanbul on Friday and Saturday are scarce, but comments from those involved suggest there might be small steps taken between now and the next round of talks on 23 May.

Zvi Bar’el reported in Haaretz here just after midnight that “Sources close to the talks told Haaretz that the Iranians are demanding an American and European commitment not to carry out a military attack on their country as long as the talks continue”…

And, as Haaretz noted in that piece, “The U.S. and Israel have not ruled out military action to destroy Iran’s nuclear sites”.

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, former head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, who has often spoken of the ironies of the situation, wrote in an article published in The Washington Post on Friday 13 April that here that “Forty-five years ago, the United States sold my country a research reactor as well as weapons-grade uranium as its fuel. Not long afterward, America agreed to help Iran set up the full nuclear fuel cycle along with atomic power plants. The U.S. argument was that nuclear power would provide for the growing needs of our economy and free our remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals. That rationale has not changed. Still, after the Islamic Revolution in our country in 1979, all understandings with the United States in the nuclear field unraveled. Washington even cut off fuel deliveries to the very facility it supplied. To secure fuel from other sources, Iran was forced to modify the reactor to run on uranium enriched to around 20 percent. The Tehran Research Reactor still operates, supplying isotopes used in the medical treatment of 800,000 of my fellow Iranians every year. But getting to this point was not easy. In 2009, we put forward a request to the International Atomic Energy Agency for fuel for the reactor as its supply was running out, threatening the lives of many Iranians. When we agreed to exchange a major portion of our stock of low-enriched uranium for reactor fuel in 2010 — a proposal by the Obama administration — the response we got from the White House was a push for more U.N. Security Council sanctions … Thanks to the grace of God and the hard work of our committed and growing cadre of scientists, we managed to do something we had never done before: enrich uranium to the needed 20 percent and mold it into fuel plates for the reactor”.

The title of Salehi’s piece in the WPost is “Iran: We do not want nuclear weapons“.

In the same article, Salehi also wrote: “We have strongly marked our opposition to weapons of mass destruction on many occasions. Almost seven years ago, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made a binding commitment. He issued a religious edict — a fatwa — forbidding the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons. Our stance against weapons of mass destruction, which is far from new, has been put to the test. When Saddam Hussein attacked us with chemical arms in the 1980s, we did not retaliate with the same means”…

And now, Iran seems to want to have the resumed session of these talks in Baghdad — where people will not forget, just as those in Tehran during the same time will not forget either — the terror of the “war of the cities” when the two countries attacked each other’s capitals during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war… Baghdad is a very wierd choice of venue for the next meeting.

As to the issue of suspending its own 20% enrichment of uranium [which the U.S. made the centerpiece of the current talks with Iran], Cyrus Safdari wrote days ago on his Iran Affairs blog, here, that: “such a deal — if it happens — is merely tangential and would amount to little more than simply accepting an Iranian offer which was first proposed by Iran many years ago. Iranian Ambassador Javad Zarif explained some of the details of Iran’s proposals first made in 2005 … Iran already offered to cease 20% enrichment as long as Iran could have the reactor fuel necessary for the Tehran Research Reactor, which uses 20% enriched uranium in its fuel rods. Ahmadinejad himself personally came to New York in September 2011 and repeated the offer to cease making 20% enriched uranium. Of course this offer was naturally characterized as merely a ‘bluff’ … The real issue which would have to be addressed in any sort of real deal over the nuclear issue is the basic right of Iran to have the full fuel cycle and a robust nuclear program, akin to Germany or Japan or Argentina’s, in accordance with Iran’s ‘inalienable’ rights under the NPT”…

While that may be so, Iran has also raised questions about the unreliability due to possible interruption of supplies coming to Iran from outside, due to sanctions of the type that have been applied against Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

After six-nation talks with Iran in Geneva in September 2009, Reuters reported here that “Western officials said Iran had agreed in principle at Thursday’s meeting in Geneva to a deal under which it would send most of its enriched uranium to Russia for further processing. France would then place the uranium in fuel assemblies which Iran would use, under safeguards, in a Tehran nuclear reactor which produces medical isotopes but is running low on fuel … But a senior Iranian official said the deal was preliminary and contested reports that Iran was ready to send 1.2 tons of its 1.5-tonne low-enriched uranium stockpile abroad for refining to the 20 percent purity needed for the Tehran reactor. ‘Whatever they’ve agreed (in Geneva) on 20 percent enrichment is just based on principles’, the official told Reuters. ‘We have not agreed on any amount or any numbers’…”.

The situation appears not to have moved much since then, at least, not publicly.

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