Iran sets out proposals for nuclear programme in Geneva
Tehran ‘breakthrough’ plan involves six-month timetable to achieving deal
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton speaks with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif last night in Geneva, after he gave an hour-long presentation on Iran’s proposals to end the nuclear deadlock. Photograph: Fabrice Coffrini/Reuters
Negotiations in Geneva are due to go into a second day today after the first “very detailed” technical discussions between Iran and major powers over Tehran’s nuclear programme for years.
After giving an hour-long PowerPoint presentation on its proposals to end the decade-old deadlock, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was due to meet the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, last night to prepare for today’s session, amid the first signs of real progress for at least four years.
No details of the Iranian presentation, titled “Closing an unnecessary crisis: Opening new horizons”, were disclosed but it is thought to propose curbs on the Iranian programme in return for sanctions relief and international recognition of Iran’s right to enrich uranium.
“For the first time, very detailed technical discussions continued this afternoon,” said Ms Ashton’s spokesman, Michael Mann.
Mr Zarif’s deputy, Abbas Araqchi, said: “We believe our proposal has the capacity to make a breakthrough.”
Mr Araqchi said the Iranian plan set out a timeline of six months to get to a deal. He said Iran hoped the next step – a new round of talks on the details of a deal – would take place within a month.
Senior diplomats from the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China – who make up a negotiating group chaired by Ms Ashton – were consulting with their capitals on a common response to the Iranian presentation.
No translation delay
Unlike previous negotiations, the two days of talks in Geneva are being carried out in English, which Mr Zarif and Mr Araqchi speak fluently. Without the need for interpreters, the negotiations were moving at least twice as quickly as previous talks.
After the PowerPoint presentation in the morning, Mr Zarif retired to his hotel complaining of severe backache. He has said the condition was brought on by attacks by the conservative press in Tehran which he said had misquoted him as saying the recent thaw with the US was a mistake.
The pain forced him to lie down for much of the flight from Tehran to Geneva, on which he brought a doctor to help keep it under control.
The backache was apparently not the only reminder of pressures at home: according to one Iranian report, Mr Zarif’s delegation received a phone call from Tehran yesterday morning with last-minute changes to the Iranian proposal.
Asked about the foreign minister’s condition, Mr Araqchi said: “He’s not all right at all. He is suffering a lot.” He said Mr Zarif had gone to the hotel but would not leave Geneva.
Before the talks began, a senior US official said the aim was to make progress towards an interim confidence-building deal that would defuse tensions and buy time for a more comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear standoff.
The official said Mr Araqchi’s announcement days before Geneva that Iran would not contemplate shipping out enriched uranium as part of a deal was not a critical problem. “There’s a variety of ways of dealing with that,” she said.
“To get to a comprehensive agreement is very, very difficult with highly technical issues that have to be resolved. We are looking for a confidence-building step that will put some time on the clock,” the official said. “The aim is to rebuild trust – to constrain the programme and even take it back a notch.”
She pointed to the fact that the US delegation included financial experts as evidence that Washington was ready to talk about scaling down sanctions in response to Iranian concessions. “If they are ready to go, we are ready to go,” she said. – (Guardian service)