- By Uri Friedman
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.
On Wednesday, President Obama warned that the window for resolving the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program “diplomatically is shrinking.” Luckily, Iran appears to be poking its head through that very window. Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili has welcomed a resumption of talks between his country and the so-called “P5+1 — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States. Here’s Iran’s Fars News Agency:
He further called for constructive, serious and prerequisite-free talks for steady cooperation, and asked the EU foreign policy chief to remain loyal to the contents of her letter in this regard.
The Iranian top negotiator also demanded the Group 5+1 to show a constructive approach towards talks based on preserving Iran’s nuclear rights in accordance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and also asked for holding negotiations on a steady and progressive trend.
Iran and the G5+1 are still in discussion over the date and venue for the next round of their talks.
Iran meter: There are, of course, numerous reasons to dismiss today’s development. Western powers suspect Iran is simply buying time with the talks and blame the collapse of negotiations in Istanbul in January 2011 on Iran refusing to substantively engage on the nuclear issue.
More to the point, Western powers want Iran to stop enriching uranium as a precondition to talks, while Iranian officials insist they will not negotiate on their right to enrich uranium. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton wants Iran to embrace confidence-building measures such as granting inspectors more access to its nuclear facilities, while Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency says agreeing to talk about the country’s nuclear program “by itself is confidence-building.”
The BBC‘s James Reynolds points out that the most recent talks in Geneva and Istanbul “were essentially parallel monologues,” and that Iran’s agreement in 2009 to export low-enriched uranium in exchange for reactor fuel was never implemented. Still, he notes that Western officials see Jalili’s reference to the nuclear issue this time around as evidence that Iran may finally be serious about dialogue.
And in a grim showdown between Iran and the West that rarely produces good news, Obama making a last-ditch plea for diplomacy and Iran welcoming talks constitutes a pretty good day.