UPDATE: EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told a news conference after a day of talks that there will be a meeting with the Iranian delegation again in Baghdad on May 23.
“We want now to move to a sustained process of dialogue,” Ashton said, adding, “The discussion on the Iranian nuclear issue has been constructive and useful. We want now to move to a sustained process of serious dialogue, where we can take urgent, practical steps to build confidence.”
According to the Iranian news agency Mehr, European Union foreign policy spokesman Michael Mann said on Saturday that the meeting between Iran and the six major powers had been “positive” and “totally different” than the last meeting.
Tehran and the group of 6 (US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany) met in Istanbul on Saturday, ending a 15-month hiatus in talks.
“There is a positive atmosphere… contrasting with the last time,” Mann stated after a two-and-a-half-hour morning session, adding that “the principles for future talks seem to be there.”
An afternoon session on Saturday involved a number of bilateral meetings, but the Iranian delegation rejected the US representatives’ request for a bilateral meeting.
“Their request was presented numerous times, but Iran has refused,” a source close to the Islamic Republic’s team told AFP.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton represented the major powers in the nuclear negotiations with Tehran, and the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, headed the Iranian delegation.
“I hope what we will see today is the beginnings of a sustained process,” Ashton said in a statement. “What we are here to do is to find ways in which we can build confidence between us and ways in which we can demonstrate that Iran is moving away from a nuclear weapons program.”
“What was discussed in the talks today was an emphasis on our nation’s nuclear rights based on the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),” Tehran’s chief negotiator Saeed Jalili told reporters after two rounds of talks.
According to the Fars news agency, when he was asked about the pivots of the future round of talks in Baghdad next month, Jalili said the meeting would center on “first nuclear disarmament, second the theory of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Leader, which is a clear view and can serve as a major approach towards nuclear disarmament, third preventing proliferation of the nuclear weapons which is amongst major issues of cooperation and fourth peaceful use of the nuclear technology as a given and indispensible right of the NPT member states”.
He also said that in addition to two rounds of multilateral talks with representatives of the six world powers, “we only had bilateral talks with our Russian friends”.
Sources close to the Iranian negotiators told Press TV that it was too early to describe the talks as positive and said that the viewpoints of all sides needed to be heard before passing any judgment.
Despite their rejection of bilateral talks with the Americans, diplomats told AFP that Iran’s positive attitude in Istanbul raised the prospects for a second round of more in-depth discussions, and one envoy said the meetings should be held some time in the next four weeks.
AP also quoted diplomats close to the talks as saying that the nuclear negotiators for Iran and the six world powers were making encouraging progress in bridging their differences.
The Istanbul talks are unlikely to yield a major breakthrough, according to Reuters, but Western diplomats hope to see readiness from Tehran to start to discuss “issues of substance.”
When that happens, it would mark a big change in Iran’s attitude from the last meeting, when it wouldn’t even discuss its nuclear program. There is hope for a second round of talks next month, possibly in Baghdad.
If talks continue, this could influence Israel’s decision regarding a military strikes on Iranian nuclear sites, to prevent Iran from manufacturing nuclear arms.