World powers and Iran ended two days of talks over the Islamic Republic’s disputed nuclear program with a pledge to hold further discussions starting next month.
Iran’s negotiator, Saeed Jalili, called the two-day session in Almaty, Kazakhstan a “turning point” and said a “more realistic and logical” proposal was made to Iran. He didn’t give details. Technical talks will be held in Istanbul on March 18, and political discussions with the so-called P5+1 -- the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, China and Russia -- will resume in Almaty on April 5, Jalili told reporters.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said the new offer made to Iran was “balanced” and “responsive” to Iranian concerns, without disclosing details of the talks.
World powers led by the U.S. say they are seeking a deal involving curbs on the country’s nuclear program, which they say may be aimed at developing atomic weapons, in return for the removal of economic sanctions they have imposed. Israel has warned that it may bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities to halt their development if talks don’t achieve that result. The U.S., while advocating diplomacy, hasn’t ruled out the use of force for the same end. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes.
The two-day meeting in Kazakhstan was the first since June last year. The U.S. and its partners have offered to ease some banking, petrochemical and gold sanctions if Iran ceases its output of 20 percent enriched uranium, according to officials involved in the latest talks.
Jalili reiterated that Iran has the right to enrichment under an international treaty it signed. He said there was no justification for seeking the shutdown of Iran’s Fordo plant, which was built clandestinely in the side of a mountain and produces most of the country’s medium-enriched uranium, since it’s under inspection by the United Nations nuclear watchdog.
Ashton declined to say whether the P5+1 has dropped its earlier demand for the closing of Fordo.