P5+1 nations undecided over how to proceed on diplomatic track with Iran
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Analysis

P5+1 nations undecided over how to proceed on diplomatic track with Iran

Ministerial level talks have not made significant progress; newly obtained Iranian document rejects demand to halt 20% enrichment

David Horovitz

David Horovitz is the founding editor of The Times of Israel. He is the author of "Still Life with Bombers" (2004) and "A Little Too Close to God" (2000), and co-author of "Shalom Friend: The Life and Legacy of Yitzhak Rabin" (1996). He previously edited The Jerusalem Post (2004-2011) and The Jerusalem Report (1998-2004).

EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton, left, speaks with Iran's former chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili during May 2012 talks in Baghdad (photo credit: Hadi Mizban/AP)
EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton, left, speaks with Iran's former chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili during May 2012 talks in Baghdad (photo credit: Hadi Mizban/AP)

The P5+1 nations that have been negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program are undecided over whether to schedule a fourth ministerial-level round of talks at this stage, to formally call a temporary halt to the process, or adopt a different tactic, The Times of Israel has learned.

Following a lower-level technical meeting in Istanbul on July 3, a second technical level session has been scheduled, again for Istanbul, next week. The technical sessions are aimed at clarifying positions between the sides.

Insiders say the ministerial level talks have not made significant progress, and that their resumption is not automatic. American and other officials have said repeatedly they will not engage in talks for the sake of talking.

Discussion of the Iranian program in general, and of how to proceed on the diplomatic track in particular, is high on the agenda during Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s meetings with Israeli leaders this week.

Far from Iran indicating a readiness for a suspension or scaling back of its nuclear program, a position paper obtained by The Times of Israel and said to have been used by Iran for the July 3 technical-level talks included references to expansion plans. It spoke of the need to build “a back up facility to safeguard our enrichment activities” and “at least 4 other research reactors.”

That position paper featured language that some observers saw as hinting at an Iranian readiness to suspend uranium enrichment to 20% if supplies are made available from abroad.

However, a second document seen by The Times of Israel — said to be the text of an Iranian power-point presentation also used in Istanbul — contains no such hint. Instead, it rejects the demand by the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) for a halt in 20 percent enrichment, arguing that this would entail “depriving Iran from its rights” under various international agreements, and would breach various “international practices/procedures.”

The authenticity of the two documents could not be independently verified.

Contrary to some reports, the P5+1 nations and Iran did not commit to five rounds of ministerial level engagement, The Times of Israel has also learned. The P5+1 participants believe Iran’s participation in the diplomatic contacts indicates that it is feeling the pressure of sanctions, but there have been no signs of sanctions or other pressures directly impacting Iran’s nuclear program.

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