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On nuclear talks, one step sideways, two steps back (ISRAEL HAYOM) Boaz Bismuth, Israel Hayom Correspondent, Istanbul 04/15/12)Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=3951 Israel Hayom Israel Hayom Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Iran and the P5+1 are presenting the world with a new approach – succeeding in negotiations without making progress • The six powers delighted in "new initiatives" • The problem is that Iran rejected the same initiatives two years ago.

A strange meeting took place in Istanbul on Saturday. Both sides to the renewed nuclear talks between Iran and the major world powers tried to present a new concept: succeeding in negotiations without making any progress. Under these circumstances, it came as no real shock to anyone that the big achievement coming out of the talks was the general agreement that there is even an issue to discuss, and there is also a date and a venue for the next round: May 23, in Baghdad.

The talks between Iran and the five world powers (Russia, China, the U.S., Britain, France plus Germany), were "constructive and useful," E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton announced on Saturday.

"We have agreed that the nonproliferation treaty forms a key basis for what must be serious engagement to ensure all the obligations under the treaty are met by Iran while fully respecting Iran´s right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy," she said. "We expect that subsequent meetings will lead to concrete steps toward a comprehensive negotiated solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program."

While the six powers communicated their stance, Iran gained precisely what it was after: time. It is no wonder that Iran´s leaders were all smiles following the meeting. "We didn´t expect to be received in this way," said one member of the delegation from Tehran. "We didn´t think that the world powers would display such a positive attitude."

He added that the Western delegations were enthused by the fatwa (Islamic decree) issued by Iran´s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei against nuclear weapons, calling it an example for other nations. The head of the Iranian delegation, Saeed Jalili, also presented the meeting as a big achievement, telling reporters that the West understood that "for the Iranian people the language of threats and pressure doesn´t work."

The nuclear talks between Iran and the West resumed after a 15-month hiatus. Iran promised "new initiatives" and the world powers tried to persuade Iran to accept Western demands: Halt uranium enrichment to 20 percent, decommission the underground Fordo nuclear facility and allow impromptu International Atomic Energy Agency inspections at suspected nuclear sites.

On the eve of the talks, Ashton met with Jalili at the Iranian consulate in Istanbul, and the two later dined together. That same evening, Jalili´s second-in-command met with the heads of the Russian and Chinese delegations, both of whom oppose imposing further sanctions on the Islamic Republic. On the other hand, according to French news agency AFP, the Iranian delegation "spurned a request from their U.S. counterparts for what would have been a rare bilateral meeting on the sidelines in Istanbul."

On Saturday morning, the Iranian delegation arrived at the Istanbul convention center. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu smiled from ear to ear when he shook Jalili´s hand, following a private meeting between them the previous night. But in fact, the Turks are furious at the Iranians, who asked to relocate the second round of talks from Istanbul to Baghdad.

During a break in the talks, a Western diplomat said that the "new" Iranian initiative was to swap the uranium enriched to 20% in its possession for internationally supervised nuclear fuel. Iran even offered to hand the uranium it has enriched to 3.5% over to Russia and France to be turned into nuclear fuel. The problem is that this very initiative includes the same propositions Iran itself rejected two years ago.

In any case, in light of the Iranians´ euphoria, one of the heads of the European delegations sought to dampen the enthusiasm. "The Iranians will act as though they are on top, but they forget that they are not in a normal situation – the burden of proof is on them," one European diplomat told Israel Hayom. "They are playing for time, but this time there are debilitating sanctions in place."

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