“We want now to move to a sustained process of serious dialogue,” said Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief and lead negotiator for a bloc of six world powers engaged in the first direct nuclear talks with Iran since January 2011.
A senior U.S. official described the tone of the discussions as encouraging but stressed the need for rapid progress on steps to ease concerns about Iran’s nuclear intentions.
“While the atmosphere today was positive, and good enough to merit a second round, there is urgency for concrete progress, and the window for diplomatic action is closing,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe diplomatic deliberations. The official added that there were no expectations for immediately lifting sanctions against Iran.
The chief Iranian representative, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili, called the talks a “success” and said he believed the atmosphere was now conducive to progress.
“We saw a positive approach,” said Jalili, speaking through an interpreter. “We consider it a step forward. For Iranian people, the language of threats and pressure don’t work. But the approach of cooperation and talk could be fruitful.”
The senior U.S. official said that during the meetings, Jalili “repeated what they said in the past, that it is un-Islamic to have a nuclear weapon.”
Both Ashton and Jalili said the two sides would begin work immediately on an arguably harder task: drafting concrete proposals for resolving the crisis. The proposals and counterproposals will address an array of complex and emotionally laden issues, including Western demands for suspension of parts of Iran’s nuclear program as well as Iranian calls for easing economic sanctions.
Signaling Iran’s intention to take a tough line in the future talks, Jalili said Tehran would insist on having “full rights under the non-proliferation treaty,” implying that it will continue to maintain its right to enrich uranium, which it says it needs for peaceful nuclear energy uses. Before taking the podium, Jalili’s aide displayed a poster of Iranian scientists killed in bomb attacks over the past four years — assaults Jalili denounced as terrorism.
In addition to the Iranians and E.U. officials, the talks included high-ranking delegations from the six countries known as the P5-plus-one — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, which are the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia, plus Germany. The diplomats met for 2 ½ hours in the morning then decided to continue the meetings through the afternoon and evening.