No Deal in Sight on Final Day of Iran Nuclear Talks

Six world powers met in Kazakhstan’s commercial hub, Almaty to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.
Getty Images
Six world powers met in Kazakhstan’s commercial hub, Almaty to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.

By Reuters

Published April 06, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

Six world powers and Iran met for a second day on Saturday with scant hope of striking a breakthrough deal to ease concern that Tehran may be trying to develop nuclear weapons capability, a dispute that could escalate into a new Middle East war.

Negotiators failed to narrow their differences when the two-day meeting began on Friday, which followed a round of talks in February, also in Kazakhstan’s commercial hub, Almaty.

The final day of negotiations was unlikely to achieve more than a willingness to keep talking. Iran responded on Friday to an offer of limited relief from sanctions with a proposal of its own that puzzled Western diplomats and which Russia said raised more questions than answers.

Iran’s critics accuse it of covertly seeking the means to make nuclear bombs and say Tehran in the past has used diplomacy as a stalling tactic. Further inconclusive talks will not reassure Israel, which says it could launch air strikes to stop its arch-enemy from getting the bomb, if necessary.

The Jewish state is widely believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal.

With all sides aware that a breakdown in diplomacy could move the stand-off a step closer to war, no one in Almaty was talking about abandoning diplomatic efforts. But an actual deal seemed as far away as ever.

“We had a substantive exchange. But there is still a wide gulf between the parties. We are considering how we move on from here,” said one Western diplomat after Friday’s discussions.

On Saturday morning, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton - the six world powers’ lead negotiator - held a bilateral meeting with her Iranian counterpart.

Iranian state television said Iranian officials also conducted very “fruitful” bilateral meetings with the Chinese and Russian delegations before the wider negotiations resumed at around noon (0600 GMT), but it gave no details.

Beijing and Moscow - which both have commercial ties with Tehran - have backed U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions imposed on the Islamic state since 2006 but have criticised separate, harsher Western punitive steps against the big oil producer.

The talks between Iran and the powers later adjourned for lunch before resuming around 4.30 p.m. (1030 GMT), the semi-official Iranian news agency Fars said.

MORE QUESTIONS

With a presidential election due in Iran in June, scope for a breakthrough was slim even before the first day of talks, when Iran declined to accept or reject an offer of modest sanctions relief in exchange for curbing its most sensitive nuclear work.

Iranian deputy negotiator Ali Bagheri said Iran had given a “detailed response to all the questions”.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said: “Iran has given an answer to the proposals of the six powers. It is the kind of answer that creates more questions … But this shows that the negotiations are serious.”

Without substantial progress in coming months, Western governments are likely to increase economic sanctions on Iran.

“It seems that instead of narrowing, the gap between the sides (has) actually widened,” said Ali Vaez, an Iran expert with the International Crisis Group.

The talks were held against a backdrop of soaring tension between big powers and North Korea, which like Iran is defying international demands to curb its nuclear programme. But unlike North Korea, which has carried out three nuclear tests since 2006, Iran says its nuclear energy activity is entirely peaceful.

In Almaty, the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany tried on Friday to persuade Iran to abandon its higher-grade uranium enrichment, as a first step to a broader agreement. But deputy negotiator Bagheri indicated that Iran wanted to know how and when its main concerns would be addressed before it agreed to any intermediate steps.

Iran, which denies seeking nuclear weapons, wants major economic sanctions - including on its oil exports and banks - lifted and its right to enrich uranium publicly recognised.

The six nations, however, say this right only applies when nuclear work is carried out under extensive oversight by U.N. inspectors, something Iran has refused to grant. Since 2006, the U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran suspend the work.

The powers said in February that they wanted Iran to convince them it was serious about a final deal by stopping enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, an important technological advance en route to producing weapons-grade material, ship out some stockpiles and shutter a facility where such work is done.

In return they offered relief on sanctions on Iranian petrochemicals and trade in gold and other precious metals. Iran says it is refining to the 20 percent threshold in order to convert the material into fuel for a medical research reactor.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.