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28 May 2023

'Still waiting' for Iran response to nuclear talks offer: EU


Global powers involved in negotiations on Iran's suspect nuclear programme are still waiting for a reply to a letter sent months ago by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, her office said on Friday.

Ashton on October 21 sent Iran's nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili a letter on behalf of permanent UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus non-permanent member Germany she represents in the talks.

"We are waiting for the Iranian reaction," said her office in a statement.

It added that the powers had "always been clear about the validity of the dual track approach" of continuing dialogue while sanctioning Iran's disputed nuclear drive.

Ashton's office said it was respnding to speculation of an imminent resumption of the talks.

In the letter, Ashton says "I can confirm that our overall goal remains a comprehensive negotiated long-term solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme."

But it states that "we can achieve a full settlement only by focussing on the key issue, which are the concerns about the nature of your nuclear programme, as reflected in IAEA reports."

Last talks between the two sides took place in Istanbul a year ago and produced no results.

Ashton said in her missive: "If the Iranian side is prepared to engage seriously in meaningful discussions on concrete confidence building steps and demonstrate willingness to address the international community's concerns about the nature of its nuclear programme, without pre-conditions, we would be willing to agree on a next meeting."

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had said in Brussels this week that both Iran and global powers were ready and willing to restart the talks, while Ashton's office had said there was no progress.

"Both sides declared the intention to meet and to restart the negotiations" but "of course it is up to both sides to decide," Davutoglu said.

The minister told journalists that during his recent visit to Tehran "Iran declared that they are ready to restart the talks" and that Ashton "asked me to consult this with the Iranian side as well."

"We will be happy to host this new round of talks," he added.

But a spokesman for Ashton was less optimistic than Davutoglu in comments Wednesday.

"We've always said we're open for talks," Michael Mann told AFP. "However we will not do so until there's a response from Iran in substance to the (EU) High Representative's letter of October last year."