Six-party talks ‘encouraging’ after 15-month break

Iran and six major world powers have had a “constructive” and “encouraging” discussion over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program in Turkey. As a goodwill gesture, Iran has issued a religious decree banning the production of nuclear weapons.

­The US delegation has asked for tete-a-tete meeting with Iranian diplomats following the end of Saturday’s round of talks. Iran, however, turned down the request, saying that “it is not Iran’s policy to have bilateral talks with the US.”

“No bilateral talks with the US will be formed,” Iranian national security official Alaeddin Boroujeddi told the Associated Press. “Iran will talk to them on the multilateral level.”

Earlier reports suggested that a US envoy had agreed with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili on a bilateral meeting on the issue later on Saturday.

Nevertheless, the latest round of talks over Tehran’s nuclear program has been described as generally successful by the majority of participants. The next round of talks is scheduled for May 23 in Baghdad.

Discussions resumed on Saturday after a 15-month break, with the previous round ending in stalemate. Before the P5+1 talks behind closed doors began, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a “fatwa,” or religious prohibition, on nuclear weapons in Iran.

“There was a very constructive atmosphere compared to last time … generally a positive vibe,” said a diplomat who demanded anonymity. “The principle seems to be there for future negotiations.”

The long-term goal of Iran’s counterparts, who insist Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons, is to force the Islamic Republic to halt its nuclear program and stop all uranium enrichment.

Diplomats remained somewhat optimistic before the session, saying that Iran’s readiness for discussion would be considered enough of a success to warrant a follow-up round.

However, Foad Izadi from Tehran University believes that with all the rhetoric and threats coming from Washington, there is not much ground to be optimistic about in the talks that US President Barack Obama called the “last chance for diplomacy.”

“In fact it is somewhat surprising that Iranian government officials go to these meetings and basically listen to the other side, which is more or less repeating the same demands that are not really acceptable to the Iranian side,” Izadi told RT.

Kian Mokhtari, a columnist and commentator in Tehran, says that Tehran has already made the biggest compromise anyone can expect from these talks – the fatwa banning all production of nuclear weapons.

“He [Khamenei] did so just to reassure the P5+1 that no such thing will be taking place within a theocracy within which he has issued this decree.”

It is unrealistic to think that Iran can be forced to stop uranium enrichment, Mokhtari added. So he believes this round of talks will concentrate more on transparency and confidence building on both sides of the argument.

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