Iran talks seek to chip away legacy of mistrust (BBC) British Broadcasting Company) By Mohsen Asgari and James Reynolds BBC News, Istanbul 15 April 2012 Last updated at 01:10 GMT)
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At these talks in Istanbul, no-one needed name tags. Almost everyone
was here in January 2011 when the most recent round of negotiations
Almost 15 months later, negotiators returned to Istanbul keen to
avoid running into some of their old problems.
The central issue which underlies the nuclear dispute between Iran
and the West is the lack of trust between the two sides. For decades,
Iran and the West have shared an overwhelming lack of faith in each
This has made reaching an agreement over Iran´s nuclear ambitions
Diplomats here believed that a small dinner party might help to chip
away at some of this legacy of mistrust.
So, on the eve of the negotiations, the world powers´ chief
negotiator Baroness Catherine Ashton dined at the Iranian consulate
with her Iranian counterpart Saed Jalili (the two were joined by
their respective deputies). We are told that the dinner party
conversation touched on the role of women in politics.
Giant poster unveiled
The next day, at the start of negotiations in the Istanbul Conference
Centre complex, the two chief negotiators gave each other their own
by-now traditional greeting - a polite nod at a noticeably cautious
and respectful distance.
For religious reasons, Saed Jalili cannot offer his hand to Lady
Ashton - the EU´s foreign policy chief knows this and she appears to
make every attempt to make sure that she sticks to a simple nod.
The delegations from the world powers stayed at the nearby Hilton
hotel. Before they talks began they swapped handshakes in the lobby.
Iran´s delegation stayed some distance away at the Iranian consulate.
It is not immediately obvious if the negotiators from the six powers
were able to strike up a rapport with their Iranian counterparts. One
diplomat from the six powers appeared to be wearing a watch with
Persian numerals - but perhaps this was just a coincidence.
The day´s opening session lasted two-and-a-half hours and was
described as positive. Bilateral meetings and a final plenary session
continued into the evening. At one point there was a report that the
US and Iran had decided to hold their own individual meeting (if
true, this would have been the big news of the conference). Minutes
later Iran´s state media denied the rumour.
Finally, just after 21:00 local time, Baroness Ashton took the
escalators down to the nearby media centre to announce that the two
sides had agreed to meet again in Baghdad next month.
"The talks have been constructive and useful," she told the news
Lady Ashton took three or four questions and then left.
Shortly afterwards, Iran´s local diplomats approached the stage and
prepared for the arrival of Saed Jalili. They unveiled a giant poster
on the wall behind the podium.
"Nuclear energy for all, nuclear weapons for none," the poster read.
It showed the pictures of a number of Iranian nuclear scientists who
have been killed in the last two years. Iran accuses foreign
intelligence services of carrying out the killings.
A few minutes later, Saed Jalili arrived at the media centre
accompanied by his delegation - each wore an extremely smart suit and
crisp shirt (Iran´s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have pioneered
a weather-beaten look, but Iran´s nuclear negotiators evidently like
to be well-tailored.)
"In general what has happened today, because it was based on co-
operation, it was very successful," Mr Jalili told the news
conference. "If we carry on like this, there will be more success in
Mr Jalili then remained on the podium to take well over a dozen
questions. He showed little desire to leave.
In their respective statements, Lady Ashton and Saed Jalili announced
that their deputies would hold framework talks before the next round
of main talks in May in Baghdad.
These framework talks may turn out to be where specific offers are
made and where Iran´s nuclear programme is discussed in detail.
Standing outside the main news conference room, almost entirely un-
noticed by the Western press, was the man who will lead these talks
for Iran - Ali Bagheri. Mr Bagheri gave interviews to a small number
of Iranian state media reporters. The BBC briefly spoke to him as he
headed for the escalators.
"Where will the framework talks be held?"
"I am just going up to discuss it," he said quietly as he stepped
onto the escalator. "We have not yet agreed."
The escalator took him upstairs. (© BBC MMXII 04/15/12)
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