Six world powers began fresh talks with Iran yesterday in a bid to resolve tensions over its controversial nuclear drive, but the US cautioned against building up hopes of a breakthrough.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, led the delegations which convened for the two-day meeting at a seafront Ottoman palace in Istanbul, a Turkish diplomat said.
Ashton represented the so-called P5+1 group of Britain, China, France, Russia, the US and Germany.
Iran would refuse to discuss any suspension of its uranium enrichment activities, said Massoud Zohrevand, a senior official in the Iranian delegation.
“We will not allow any talks linked to freezing or suspending of Iran’s enrichment activities to be discussed at the meeting in Istanbul,” he said.
“So far this issue has not been discussed, has not been raised or mentioned by the other party,” Zohrevand said, adding: “Iran’s nuclear rights cannot be discussed.”
On Wednesday, the US, which suspects Iran’s nuclear program masks efforts to develop an atomic bomb, tamped down expectations for the talks, but stressed the need for Iran to engage in a “credible” process to dispel the suspicions.
“We’re not expecting any big breakthroughs,” US Department of State spokesman Mark Toner said in Washington.
“But we want to see a constructive process emerge that ... leads to Iran engaging with the international community in a credible process, and engaging and addressing the international community’s concerns about its nuclear program,” he said.
The Istanbul meeting was the second round after negotiations between the P5+1 group and Iran resumed last month in Geneva after a 14-month hiatus.
Bruno Tertrais, a French analyst specializing on Iran, described the meeting as “not negotiations, but an attempt to find a way to resume the negotiations.”
“The Iranians are playing for time — that is their main strategy. The P5+1 has no illusion,” he said.
In the eve of the talks, Russia — which for the past decade has been building Iran’s sole nuclear power plant — called for discussions on lifting UN sanctions on Tehran, after US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested Washington might consider fresh unilateral sanctions.
“The nuclear program must be at the heart of the discussions ... but there’s not only one topic for this meeting, the lifting of sanctions on Iran must also be on the agenda,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
Russia and China, one of Iran’s big trading partners, had backed all four sets of UN sanctions against Tehran.
The talks are aimed at ascertaining whether Iran is seeking nuclear weapons or is indeed looking only to meet the energy needs of its growing population, as it insists.
Iran is under four sets of UN sanctions over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, the sensitive process which can be used to make nuclear fuel or, in highly extended form, the fissile core of an atom bomb.
The US and the EU have imposed a series of their own unilateral sanctions on Tehran.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for the lifting of the sanctions if the West wanted to see progress at the talks.
He raised the bar on Wednesday, telling a cheering crowd at home that Tehran would not back down from its nuclear program.
“They say: ‘We want negotiation’ ... You are free to choose the path [of either cooperation or confrontation], but bear in mind that by adopting the old path [of confrontation], you will face a more scandalous defeat,” Ahmadinejad said.
“You could not stop us from being nuclear ... The Iranian nation will not retreat an inch. The nuclear issue is over from the Iranian point of view,” he said.
Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, have gone further, insisting Tehran would not even discuss its “nuclear dossier” at the Istanbul meeting, a tactic that Tehran has employed ahead of previous talks with the powers.
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big