The next round of direct talks on Iran’s nuclear program between the Islamic Republic and six Western powers are to be held in Kazakhstan on February 26, Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA reported Tuesday, quoting the country’s Supreme National Security Council.
The date was agreed Tuesday between the offices of Saeed Jalili, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, and EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.
Ashton said the talks are a window for achieving “real progress” regarding Iran’s nuclear program, Israel Radio reported.
The last round of direct talks between Iran and the P5+1 powers — the five permanent UN Security Council members China, Russia, France, the UK, and the US, plus Germany – was held six months ago. Talks were tentatively scheduled to resume in late December or January, but Iran didn’t respond to proposed dates in time, Western diplomats told Reuters.
World powers have used economic sanctions and diplomacy to try to persuade Tehran to halt, or scale back, its uranium enrichment. However, negotiations over the last year failed to produce a breakthrough.
The West demands Tehran stop enriching uranium to 20 percent, en route to the level used to arm nuclear warheads. Iran insists it’s enriching only to make reactor fuel and for scientific and medical programs, and not for a nuclear weapon.
Israel and the US have threatened that all options are on the table when it comes to thwarting Iran from developing an atomic bomb.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the agreement but harshly criticized Iran. In a statement Tuesday, he said Britain wants to find a diplomatic solution, “but the need to make progress is increasingly urgent. Iran continues to enrich uranium in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions and on a scale that has no plausible civilian explanation.”
Hague said world powers have made Iran “an updated and credible offer,” adding, “The onus is on Iran to respond seriously and turn its declared willingness to negotiate into concrete action.”
Last month Iran, in a defiant move, announced plans to increase its pace of uranium enrichment..
Amos Yadlin, the former head of the IDF’s military intelligence directorate, told journalists Monday that Iran has what it needs to build a nuclear bomb in a matter of four to six months. “Iran has completed in the last two years two components that… give it all of the necessary means to manufacture a nuclear weapon as soon as it chooses to do so,” Yadlin said.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Sunday that he welcomed the United States’ willingness to hold direct talks with Tehran in the standoff over its nuclear aspiration but didn’t commit to accepting any terms it might be offered — insisting that Washington must show “fair and real” intentions to resolve the issue and complaining about “threatening rhetoric.”
At the end of January, Iran’s envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA said the world body should take a realistic approach to the talks in order to achieve their goals. “The success of talks on Iran’s nuclear program depends on the agency’s compliance with the realities,” Ali-Asghar Soltanieh was quoted as saying by IRNA.
The last round of indirect talks between Ashton and Jalili were held in Istanbul in September.