June 20, 2013
EU foreign policy chief to meet Iran nuclear negotiator
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will meet Iran's chief nuclear negotiator on Tuesday, Ashton's office said on Monday, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said a political solution was still possible in the stand-off over Tehran's atomic programme.
The head of the UN atomic watchdog, Yukiya Amano, also said on Monday that his agency would hold more talks with the Islamic state aimed at allaying Western concerns that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.
Ashton will meet Iran negotiator Saeed Jalili in Istanbul as "part of continuing efforts to engage with Iran," after talks between world powers and Iran in Moscow in June failed to secure a breakthrough in the dispute.
"While it is not a formal negotiating round, the meeting will be an opportunity to stress once again to Iran the need for an urgent and meaningful confidence-building step," and to show more flexibility with proposals put forward by world powers in earlier talks, Ashton's spokeswoman said.
Several weeks after the failed Moscow talks, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "The proposals we have seen from Iran thus far within the P5+1 negotiations are 'nonstarters.'"
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the purpose of the Ashton-Jalili meeting was to gauge whether the Iranians were willing to offer any new proposals.
"That's the question that we have. We made clear that what they had put on the table was a nonstarter. Are they prepared to bring anything new?" Nuland told reporters in Washington.
She added that the major powers - the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany - were expected to meet in New York later this month on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly to discuss Iran.
As diplomatic efforts to solve the dispute have stalled, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has gone public with a demand that the United States set "red lines" that Iran not cross or risk military action. The United States has refused to set such triggers, though both it and Israel have said they reserve the right to take military action if necessary.