NEGOTIATIONS WITH Iran about its nuclear program are close to an impasse — an outcome that should surprise no one. At a meeting in Moscow on Monday and Tuesday, Iranian envoys continued to resist a proposal for an interim deal that would stop the most dangerous parts of the program in exchange for modest economic concessions from a coalition composed of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany. Iran countered with maximalist demands for the lifting of sanctions and recognition of its right to enrich uranium. “It remains clear that there are significant gaps,” said a sober statement by the European Union’s Catherine Ashton.
If there is a positive aspect to this outcome, it is that the United States and its partners appear to be sticking to their position on what Iran must do to open the door to a diplomatic solution — and are prepared to let the process lapse. No further negotiations have been scheduled — only an experts’ session early next month to go over technical details, followed by contacts between the deputies and chiefs of the delegations. Western officials say further meetings will depend on whether Iran shows itself ready to carry out the package of steps originally proposed last month, including a freeze of its most advanced form of uranium enrichment, the export of its existing stockpile of that enriched uranium, and the closure of an underground processing facility known as Fordow. “The choice is Iran’s,” said Ms. Ashton’s statement.