Iran and the European Union’s chief negotiators agreed on Saturday to resume talks on suspending uranium enrichment in two weeks, after Tehran ruled out freezing its program in talks that included the United States for the first time.
After the meeting European Union Envoy Javier Solana said the meeting was constructive but added “the reply to the answer I was looking for has not come clearly.”
Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili said Tehran would remain constructive, but asked that Western powers not turn away from negotiations.
But Undersecretary of State William Burns left Geneva without making public comment
On her way to Abu Dhabi for a meeting with Arab foreign ministers US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran of stalling, “It’s time for the Iranians to give a serious answer.”
In Tehran the reactions were more upbeat, President Ahmadinejad saying the talks were a “step forward” and newspaper headlines talking of optimism. Babak Yektafar of Washington Prism says the talks were upstaged by the first ever meeting between high level representative from Tehran and Washington.
CARLO BASILONE: Iran and the European Union’s chief negotiators agreed on Saturday to resume talks on suspending uranium enrichment in two weeks, after Tehran ruled out freezing its program in talks that included the United States for the first time. US Undersecretary of State attended, which made it the highest-level meeting between the United States and Iran since the Islamic Revolution 30 years ago. According to the Associated Press, a western diplomat in Geneva familiar with the substance of the meetings said the Iranians were focusing on the second or third step of substantial negotiations without addressing a freeze of their enrichment program. After the meeting, European envoy Javier Solana said the meeting was constructive, but added, “the reply to the answer I was looking for has not come clearly.” (EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana) Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili said Tehran would remain constructive, but asked that western powers not turn away from negotiations. But Undersecretary Burns left Geneva without making public comment. On her way to Abu Dhabi for a meeting with Arab foreign ministers, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran of stalling: “It’s time for the Iranians to give a serious answer,” she said. In Tehran the reactions were more upbeat, President Ahmadinejad saying the talks were a step forward, and newspaper headlines talking of optimism. An AP camera crew spoke to local residents.
RESPONDENT (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Definitely, showing flexibility by both sides can be a good solution to the issue and obviously, looking at it unilaterally and one-dimensionally by either Western or Iranian side cannot be an appropriate solution.
RESPONDENT (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): All in all, we should try to create conditions in which we could attract world’s confidence and direct the issue toward convincing them that we are not after the atomic bomb and want to use nuclear energy peacefully.
BASILONE: We’re joined now from Washington by Babak Yektafar, editor-in-chief of Washington Prism. Babak, what happened in Geneva this week? According to the American media things didn’t go so well, the Iranians didn’t budge. According to the Iranian media, things were really positive. It’s a little confusing whose interpretation is right.
BABAK YEKTAFAR, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, WASHINGTONPRISM.ORG: Well, I think what happened, unfortunately, is that negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program basically got hijacked by the presence of Mr. William Burns from State Department and all this talk and hype, essentially, about the future of Iran-US relations.
BASILONE: Before these meetings Iran was kind of in the driver’s seat. They forced the US to come to Geneva and meet them, even though they hadn’t stopped enrichment. But after these meetings, there could be the interpretation that now the US is in the driver’s seat, ’cause they can say, “See? We showed up, and you still didn’t change your tune.”
YEKTAFAR: But, you see, that’s the problem. Again, showing up at a meeting is not necessarily, you know, a way to have any kind of constructive negotiation that can lead to something that both countries will feel comfortable. But to do it in such a way that, you know, one member shows up and insists that they’re there not to negotiate, but to just sit as an observer, and then, right away, as soon as the meeting is over, we’re back, you know, to all the rhetoric and all that. In all honesty, I have to say that, watching the Iranian media and reading the Iranian media, I’ve seen more positive approach and pleasant approach from the Iranians than I’ve seen from the Americans. I still see it as some sort of a publicity stunt, that, hey, we showed up, then nothing happened. But, really, by just showing up, you expect things to change and happen overnight? I don’t know. The problem between the United States and Iran is not just the nuclear program. We’re talking about 30 years of animosity between the two countries and a number of different issues between the two countries that really needs to be resolved. I mean, it says a lot that just because Undersecretary Burns showed up at this meeting the whole world was making so much of it, because I think the whole world, essentially, has gotten tired of this animosity between the two countries.
BASILONE: Why would Iran go to these meetings? The idea is that the part of the deal or what we’ve heard part of the deal was that the enrichment would be done by western companies with some possible observation or participation by Iran. But this way it would be transparent and it wouldn’t lead to nuclear weapons.
YEKTAFAR: Yeah. Well, I know that that is still being discussed to a great extent within the Iranian leadership and community, and they still haven’t completely come out with a final answer. And I think that also plays a great deal into this delaying tactic that Iran plays and has played very well, and it has frustrated the United States. I don’t think they have resolved that issue. Just to take note, about two weeks ago, one of the senior advisors to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomenei gives three interviews to western media, where he basically criticizes the confrontational approach of President Ahmadinejad vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program, saying that essentially this is not beneficial to Iran and the future of the Islamic Republic. Well, of course, as soon as he says that, there’s all this talk and whispers that this is what Ayatollah Khomenei is saying, and it really contradicts what President Ahmadinejad wants to do in regards to the nuclear program. Well, it won’t be long, of course, President Ahmadinejad goes to supreme leader saying that “This is undermining my authority” and he keeps insisting on that. And last week, Ayatollah Khomenei in a major speech basically said that the nuclear program is being led by the National Security Council under the leadership of the president. He is the one who has the final word. But I think in exchanged what he got promised from Mr. Ahmadinejad was to lessen the rhetoric, particularly in regards to Israel and the United States, and maybe see some advances in that regard.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.