By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
IIP Staff Writer
October 17, 2013
At a press briefing October 16, White House spokesman Jay Carney told journalists he would not discuss the technical conversations or go into specifics of the Iranian proposal, but did emphasize that a breakthrough overnight should not be expected. “These are complicated issues, they’re technical issues, and as the president has said, the history of mistrust is very deep,” Carney said.
“The onus remains on Iran to come into compliance with its international obligations, and any deal must prove to the international community that Iran’s program will be used for exclusively peaceful purposes,” Carney added.
At issue is Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which the international community has long believed was part of a larger program for the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Iranian officials have claimed that the uranium enrichment processing has been for use in a medical research reactor near Tehran and for electric energy generation. As a consequence of this impasse, the United Nations, the United States and the international community have imposed a series of political and stringent international economic sanctions against Iran.
Negotiators from the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia met for two days in Geneva, October 15–16, with an Iranian delegation led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, led the talks and said it was a “very intensive and, I think, a very important meeting,” according to news reports.
Carney told journalists that the six nations remain united on holding Iran to its international obligations, and added that everyone at the meeting agreed to resume the talks in Geneva November 7–8. There will also be an experts’ meeting with the six nations and Iranians before that round of talks that will include nuclear, scientific and sanctions experts.
At a separate background briefing in Geneva October 16, a senior U.S. official said the discussions were serious and substantive. President Obama welcomed efforts by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in September in New York to renew the six-nation talks and reach an accord on inspections by monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency of Iran’s nuclear development program.
“We had detailed technical discussions at a level we have not had before. And we discussed concrete steps and actions that are necessary for Iran to address the international community’s concerns about its nuclear program,” the U.S. official said.
The senior U.S. official said that the Iranians addressed what they saw as the objective, what should be in a final step and what they might do as a first step. It is a framework that the six nations have used for some time in such discussions.
“The issues were indeed complex, technical and difficult; and although we might put all of the issues on the table and begin to have those technical discussions that have so evaded us in the past, it would be highly unlikely for an agreement to come out of these two days,” the official said. “That is indeed the case.”
The rapid meeting schedule that resumes in November with the experts’ meeting wedged between the two senior officials’ meetings is an effort to ensure that the pace of the work proceeds quickly but cautiously, the official told journalists.
Obama spoke with President Rouhani by telephone September 27, the first direct contact between an American and an Iranian president in 34 years, in an effort to reach agreement over Iran’s secretive nuclear development program and to restart the stalled talks. “I reiterated to President Rouhani what I said in New York. While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward, and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution,” Obama said.