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Iran Nuclear Talks End With Pledge to Meet in Turkey

EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters the Geneva round was marked by “detailed, substantial talks focusing on the Iranian nuclear program." Photographer: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Iran agreed to a new round of talks over its nuclear program next month in Turkey, marking the first time in a more than a year that the sides committed to keeping diplomatic options alive.

The agreement between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group -- comprising China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and U.S. -- followed two days of negotiations in Geneva, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said today after the talks ended. Diplomats said before the meetings in the Swiss city that they wanted to build a framework that lead to more negotiations.

“We plan to discuss practical ideas and ways of cooperating toward a resolution of our core concerns about the nuclear issue” in Istanbul, Ashton said. The Geneva round was marked by “detailed, substantial talks focusing on the Iranian nuclear program,” Ashton said, without taking questions.

The choice of Istanbul for the next meeting is significant because Iran has called on Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government in Ankara to play a more active role in the negotiations. Turkey and Brazil tried negotiating a compromise that would have given Iran fuel for a reactor in exchange for Iran exporting some of its uranium, the key element for atomic energy and weapons.

“What we need is to be crystal clear about what we want, what we ask, what we propose,” ‪France’s Jacques Audibert, who participated in the talks, said on the sidelines of the briefing in Geneva. “We are going on with the process.”

The Geneva discussions were the first direct negotiation among the parties since Oct. 1, 2009.

‘Positive Attitude’

Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said today in Tehran that Iran went into the talks with a “positive attitude.” Nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament and atomic-technology transfer were on the agenda, he said.

“Iran has always been prepared for fair talks,” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who also called on sanctions against his country to be lifted, said today in the city of Arak. Iran’s envoy to the Geneva talks, Saeed Jalili, is expected to brief the press later today.

Iran says it’s producing uranium to fuel atomic reactors. The U.S. and Europe accuse Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons.

“We recognize Iran’s rights but insist that it fulfill its obligations,” Ashton said. While Iran’s right to enrich uranium is protected under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the UN Security Council has ordered the country to suspend its atomic work because of international suspicions.

U.S. envoy William Burns sought a “phased process of building confidence between Iran and the international community” from the meetings, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a Dec. 1 hearing.

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