In a potential breakthrough in the nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, the Islamic Republic on Wednesday expressed possible willingness to accept snap inspections of its nuclear sites by international officials, the AFP news agency reported.
The P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany — sat down with Iran Wednesday for the second day of nuclear talks in Geneva, Switzerland, to negotiate a diplomatic resolution of the standoff over Tehran’s unsanctioned nuclear program.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said at a meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday that Israel is following the talks with “hope and concern.”
“The concern is that Geneva 2013 will turn into Munich 1938,” he said. “History shows that the whole world celebrated and then World War II broke out.”
Responding to a question about whether Tehran’s proposal to the world powers included adding a protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty mandating unannounced inspections of Iranian nuclear sites, Iran’s lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, was quoted by the semi-official Iranian news agency IRNA as saying, “None of these issues exist in the first step, but they are part of our last step.”
However, Araqchi was cited on Tuesday by IRNA as saying the additional protocol “does not exist” in the offer.
Araqchi said negotiations with world powers “were held in a highly positive atmosphere and the two sides were serious when speaking of their issues,” Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported.
Last month, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran would open its nuclear facilities to international inspectors as part of broad negotiations with the United States that could eventually restore diplomatic relations between the decades-long adversaries.
US State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki was reluctant to call the proposal a breakthrough, saying that discussions were “ongoing” and therefore it would be premature to call it a “breakthrough at this stage,” according to AFP.
“However, it certainly is positive that there was enough information to have technical discussions,” she added.
The US and other Western powers have imposed crippling sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. In recent months, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has reached out to the West, engaging in direct communication with the US for the first time.
The talks in Geneva are being seen as a key test of Iran’s overtures to the West. The P5+1, comprising the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, is eager to see whether Iran’s new style since Rouhani’s election will translate into progress on dispelling concerns over Tehran developing nuclear weapons.
Israel has repeatedly warned that Iran is seeking to dupe the West, get sanctions lifted, and retain its nuclear weapons program. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded that Iran be stripped of its entire uranium enrichment capacity as part of any arrangement under which sanctions could be eased.