Iran Convenes Discussions Amid Maneuvers in Persian Gulf
Chinese, French, German, Russian, U.K. and U.S. diplomats, known as the P5+1 group, will meet their Iranian counterparts today to review unresolved issues from their previous discussions. The sides downgraded the talks to a “technical level” after high-level negotiations on June 20 in Moscow failed to yield a compromise.
“We hope Iran will seize the opportunity of this meeting to show a willingness to take concrete steps to urgently meet the concerns of the international community, to build confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program and to meet its international obligations,” Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, said yesterday in a statement.
Two days after a European oil embargo took effect on July 1, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps fired long-range missiles as part of a war game targeting potential enemies, state media reported. Iran’s parliament is working on legislation to close the Strait of Hormuz, passage to a fifth of the world’s traded oil, to oil tankers linked to countries applying the embargo.
The increased Persian Gulf tension caused oil prices to rise. Oil for August delivery climbed $3.62, or 4.3 percent, to $87.37 a barrel at 10:22 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent for August settlement traded above $100 a barrel for the first time since June 11.
“To come to agreement, there need to be confidence- building measures and an atmosphere of trust which is two- sided,” Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said today at a briefing in Tehran. “It is necessary that our rights are recognized and respected.”
The P5+1 negotiators have said they want Iran to stop 20 percent-enrichment work, shut down its mountainside Fordo atomic facility and ship out stockpiled 20 percent-enriched nuclear materials. Iran has said it wants recognition of its right to enrich uranium, a lifting of sanctions and increased atomic- technology transfer and a regional-security accord.
A central issue in the negotiations is whether Iran will stop producing 20 percent-enriched uranium, a level of purity a step short of bomb grade, and move current stockpiles out of the country to show that it isn’t seeking the capability to produce atomic weapons.
Western powers contend Iran is hiding a nuclear-weapons program, and the U.S. and Israel have declined to discount the possibility of military strikes against its atomic installations.
“The pressure track is our primary focus now, and we believe the economic sanctions are bringing Iran to the table,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a June 30 interview with Bloomberg Radio in Geneva. “They are going to continue to increase and cause economic difficulties for them.”
Iran has repeatedly called the under dozens of international sanctions targeting its energy and finance industries illegal.
“Illegal and irrational actions taken by the U.S. and the EU against Iran and its people are aggressive actions and considered against the country’s national security,” Mehmanparast said. Iran “will use all its power to maintain security in the Persian Gulf so the transit of energy is properly conducted.”