AFP: Senior European and Iranian diplomats met in Turkey on Tuesday in a bid to seek common ground in the protracted negotiations on Tehran’s disputed nuclear drive. ISTANBUL (AFP) — Senior European and Iranian diplomats met in Turkey on Tuesday in a bid to seek common ground in the protracted negotiations on Tehran’s disputed nuclear drive.
Iran’s deputy chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri met EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton’s deputy Helga Schmid at an undisclosed location in Istanbul for talks that were closed to the press, officials said.
The meeting was designed to “seek common ground and coordination between the views of the P5+1 and Iran and also to prepare the ground for a telephone conversation between (Iranian chief negotiator Saeed) Jalili and Ashton,” Iran’s ISNA news agency reported.
Ashton — who is leading negotiations on behalf of world powers — said in June that she and Jalili should meet if there was enough headway in Tuesday’s talks and a previous technical meeting in Istanbul earlier this month.
The ISNA report about a telephone conversation would appear to suggest that insufficient progress had been made for face-to-face meeting.
Ashton’s spokesman Michael Mann had said earlier that the meeting between Bagheri and Schmid would be follwed by a “contact” between Ashton and Jalili.
The P5+1 — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — has been involved in negotiations to try to curb Iran’s nuclear programme, which Israel and the West suspect is a cover for efforts to build the atomic bomb.
Iran has always denied it is seeking to build nuclear weapons.
The P5+1 has told Iran to immediately stop enriching uranium to the 20 percent level, to ship out its existing 20 percent stock and to shut down a fortified underground enrichment facility.
Iran insists it has a right to uranium enrichment under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it says should be recognised by the P5+1. It also wants Western sanctions on its economy to be eased.
Enriching uranium to 20 percent purity is just a technical step short of the 90 percent needed to make nuclear bombs.
The P5+1 and Iran made no breakthroughs in talks held in Moscow last month, but a meeting of experts in Istanbul in early July staved off a total breakdown of the diplomatic process, with Russia reporting some progress.