Publishe Date: 7:28 PM - 5/27/2014 | Print

Deputy Chief Negotiator Describes Zarif-Ashton Talks Useful, Talks Continue

Politics - Iran's Deputy Chief negotiator Seyed Abbas Araqchi described two days of talks between Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in the Turkish city of Istanbul as 'useful', and said there could be more bilateral meetings before the next round of the multilateral nuclear talks between Tehran and the six world powers.

Speaking to FNA after two days of bilateral talks between Iranian and EU negotiating teams headed by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Tuesday, Araqchi described the Istanbul meeting as "lengthy" and "useful", and said the talks were aimed at "studying the different ways to advance the negotiations" (between Iran and the six world powers).

Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi

 

"The two sides also decided that if needed, the (bilateral) discussions could continue at both political and technical levels before the next round of the (Iran-Group 5+1) negotiations in Vienna from June 16-20," Araqchi, also a deputy foreign minister, added.

"Both sides are resolved to continue the talks," he stressed.

The bilateral talks between Iran's Zarif and EU's Ashton started in Istanbul on Monday.

Zarif was accompanied by two of his deputies, Araqchi and Majid Takht-e Ravanchi, as well as Foreign Ministry Director-General for Political and International Affairs Hamid Ba'eedinejad in the meetings, while Ashton's Deputy Helga Schmidt and senior aide Stephen Clemente accompanied the EU foreign policy chief.

The first closed-door session between Zarif and Ashton lasted for two and a half hours on Monday afternoon. The two chief negotiators and their teams attended a dinner meeting at the Iranian consulate building in Istanbul later in the evening.

Zarif and Ashton also had a similar meeting on Tuesday which lasted for more than two hours.

Ba'eedinejad and Clemente also had a bilateral experts meeting parallel with the Zarif-Ashton talks.

Zarif and his accompanying team are now due to leave Istanbul for Algeria to take part in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)'s midterm ministerial meeting which is due to be held on Wednesday and Thursday.

Iran and the six world powers held their fourth round of talks in Vienna on April 14-16. The seven nations have been discussing ways to iron out differences and start drafting a final deal that would end the West’s dispute with Iran over the country’s nuclear energy program.

Iran said there had been no tangible progress in writing the draft text of the agreement and it blamed the US for the failure, saying Washington has made excessive demands beyond the agreements made in the previous rounds of the talks.

In November 2013, Iran and the six world powers signed an interim nuclear deal in the Swiss city of Geneva that came into force on January 20.

In exchange for Tehran’s confidence-building bid to limit certain aspects of its nuclear activities, the Sextet of world powers agreed to lift some of the existing sanctions against Tehran and continue talks with the country to settle all problems between the two sides.

The interim agreement will end late in July, but it could be extended for another six months.

After the last round of the multilateral talks in Vienna in April, Araqchi said Iran is not in a rush to push the talks into a final phase of concluding an agreement at any price. "There is no push to obtain an agreement by July 20 at any price."

"We (only) concede to an agreement which will be in line with our interests, meet our demands and establish the Iranian nation's rights," he continued.

"We hope that the talks continue in a logical, rational and realistic manner and yield result within the deadline," Araqchi said.

Almost a wee later, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also underlined that the country is not in a rush to reach a final agreement with the world powers.

"We are in no hurry, neither in negotiations nor in reaching the final agreement. However, we believe that reaching a conclusion would benefit both sides,” Rouhani said in a press conference in Shanghai on Thursday.

"The Iranian nation seeks constructive interaction with the world and well understands the language of logic," he said.

"We expect the world to respect the international rules and act within the framework of human rights standards," Rouhani stressed.

Two days after the end of the talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who leads the country's team in the nuclear talks with the world powers, said in his twitter account that wrong illusions should be removed and the present opportunity shouldn't be lost as in 2005.

Given the sensitivity of the talks and the excessive demands raised by Washington from Iran, some experts see the possibility of a delay in striking a final deal between the two sides. A delay would mean a new EU foreign policy chief taking over, someone with less familiarity with the issues or rapport with the Iranians.

But, Iranian Government Spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht stressed on Wednesday that Ashton's replacement won't leave any impact on the trend of the nuclear negotiations between Tehran and the six world powers (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany).

"Mrs. Ashton's remarks are an expression of the six countries' will and these changes don’t affect the negotiations," Nobakht told reporters after a cabinet meeting here in Tehran on Wednesday.

Catherine Ashton, the British baroness who has held the EU's top foreign policy post for the past five years, may not be the critical decision-maker in the talks, but she has been the prime coordinator of the negotiations since 2010.

The role requires her to work with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany to present a clear and united position, while trying to build trust with the Iranians to keep the sensitive talks trundling along.

By continued talks all sides still hope that a deal can be finalized by July 20, potentially making history. If that's the case, Ashton would be able to see the diplomacy through - her mandate does not finish until the end of October.

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