Talks on Iranian nuclear program get nowhere, but future talks planned

December 9th, 2010

A session of talks concluded Tuesday between six major powers and Iran over its nuclear program, with scarce signs of advancement.  The meeting was the first in 14 months among Iran and the five United Nations Security Council permanent members (the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia) plus Germany. 

A further meeting was scheduled for next month in Istanbul, Turkey. 

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who was the host of the talks in Geneva, cited Iran’s nuclear program as a chief concern of the UN Security Council Permanent members and Germany.

“We recognize Iran’s rights [to nuclear power], but insist it fulfills its obligations,” Ashton said. “We plan to discuss practical ideas and ways of cooperating toward the resolution of our full concerns about the nuclear issue.”

Tension was expected to be present at the meeting Tuesday, as one of Iran’s prominent nuclear scientists, Majid Shahriari, was killed last week. Iran’s envoy to the Geneva talks, Saeed Jalili began the session by condemning the killing of the physicist. 

Following Jalili, according to The Washington Post, nearly 70 to 80 percent of the discussion was about the Iranian nuclear program, with the opening session lasting three hours followed by a series of bilateral meetings.  

The United States did not engage in a bilateral meeting with Iran, although the U.S. said it was willing to meet. 

However, a U.S. administration official told reporters that the United States “had several informal interactions which were useful to reinforce our main concerns.”  

In addition, China and Russia, both of which have close relations with Iran, had the chance to engage in discussion with Iran and delivered the message that Iran must address concerns about its nuclear program.

The United States has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since 1979, when a group of Iranian extremists stormed the American embassy in Iran and took 52 U.S. citizens hostage for 444 days.

In Iran Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said talks on his country’s nuclear program between the six powers would be “fruitful” if the countries took the measure to cancel the sanctions against Iran.  

“If you come to the negotiations by canceling all the nasty things and wrong decisions that you have adopted… lift resolutions, sanctions and some restrictions that you have created… then the talks will definitely be fruitful,” Ahmadinejad said.

Iran’s nuclear program and enrichment facilities in Qom and Natanz have drawn four sets of United Nations sanctions and have been the center of the talks in Geneva led by the European Union.  

Although the Iranian government says it is not trying to develop a nuclear weapon but simply produce uranium to fuel atomic reactors and produce electricity, the United States and Europe are fearful that Iran is secretly using its nuclear facilities to build a nuclear arsenal. 

Iranian officials initially stated their nuclear program was not up for discussion. However, after the majority of Monday’s discussion focused on the program, the outcome of the dialogue was considerably different.  

According to The Washington  Post, both Iranian and Western officials described the talks in Geneva as “constructive,” and that other countries are eager to see if Iran will agree to draw out a plan that fully explains its uranium-enrichment program.