Baqeri - Schmid Negotiations in Istanbul

Friday, July 27, 2012

Hassan Beheshtipour
Expert on International Affairs

Nuclear talks between Iran’s undersecretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Baqeri, and Helga Schmid, the deputy of the P5+1 group’s chief negotiator, Catherine Ashton, ended in the Turkish port city of Istanbul on Tuesday, July 24, 2012.

Both sides have been willing to withhold the details of talks and possible agreements reached from mass media. Therefore even the venue of negotiations was kept away from reporters. Such concerns that media reports on the negotiations may harm their process represent a wrong idea which has been there since old times when two parties were engaged in sensitive negotiations. However, at a time that the modern man is living in an age of “extra transparency” nobody can set the stage for a possible success by hiding the details of anything. Therefore, the media diplomacy is actually expected to be given the same important attention which the nuclear diplomacy is receiving. However, considering subsequent remarks by the spokesperson of the European Union, a few conclusions can be drawn.

1. Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 have been clearly going on through expert-level talks on June 3 and subsequent negotiations between the two sides’ deputies on July 24.

2. At present, major points of difference as well as agreements between the two sides have been made clear. Therefore, one must wait to see if the expected phone talk between Ms. Ashton and Mr. Jalili [Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator and secretary of the Supreme National Security Council], which according to the EU spokesperson will take places soon, will be able to create a new environment for the continuation of talks with new plans on both sides’ agendas, or we will simply have to wait and see repetition of the past mutual measures.

3. It is to the benefit of nobody if the pace of negotiations slows down. It will not even help to do away with the existing lack of complete trust between the two sides. Therefore, both parties to the negotiations should take rapid measures in order to reach an agreement through a win-win game.

4. Futility of pressure approach by increasing sanctions and conducting negotiations without providing new initiatives has already been proven during the four years that Barack Obama has been in office as the president of the United States. Therefore, if the Western sides are actually determined to achieve a result, they should opt for a policy of cooperation and negotiation.

5. Cooperation with Iran can begin with taking steps to reduce sanctions against Iran, and culminate in the recognition of Iran’s right to enrich uranium. This process can take place step by step, but both sides should be committed to taking balanced and simultaneous measures.

6. The West has made preventing Iran from building nuclear bomb its red line. Iran’s red line, on the other hand, is suspension of uranium enrichment. Therefore, it would be better for both sides if they could come up with more accurate plans to reach a common understanding by recognizing each other’s red lines.

7. Negotiations are in a sensitive phase. Officials of the European Union have noted that negotiations between chief negotiators are not possible to be resumed before September. However, if the two sides are bent on achieving an agreement, they should not lose time.

8. During the latest talks between two sides’ deputies, representatives of six major powers – that is, the United States, Britain, Germany, France, China, and Russia – were not present. Michael Mann, the spokesman for the P5+1’s chief negotiator, noted that Schmid and Baqeri will report to their bosses (respectively to Catherine Ashton, as the EU’s foreign policy chief, and Saeed Jalili, as secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council) on the results of their talks. The two sides’ top negotiators will then discuss the time and venue of further official negotiations in a phone call.

9. The general expectation was that if negotiations between two deputies were successful, the two sides would draw up an agenda for negotiations at higher levels. However, there has been no word on the time and place of the next round of negotiations between Jalili and Ashton.

10. The French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the French lawmakers that there has been no tangible progress in negotiations between big powers and Iran. He pointed out that his country will continue with the double strategy of sanctions and negotiations. Fabius stated that the West has offered many proposals to Iran during negotiations, the main part of which has been focused on Iran’s nuclear energy program and uranium enrichment. He said the P5+1 have no problem with a big country and a big nation like Iran having a peaceful nuclear energy program, but not one which would pursue military purposes. The French foreign minister also said there are many obstacles on the way of the two sides achieving an agreement because Iranians also want to talk about the situation in Syria and, at other times, they want to assert a one-sided right to enriching uranium, which cannot be accepted.

11. The P5+1 group has asked Iran to totally stop enriching uranium to 20 percent level, export all its stocks of 20-percent enriched uranium to another country, and close the nuclear site at Fordow. Iran, on the opposite, has noted that it only produces 20-percent enriched uranium to be used as fuel by Tehran Research Reactor which is used for medical and research purposes. Tehran has thus rejected any proposal involving the suspension of its uranium enrichment program. Iran, however, seems to be poised to suspend enriching uranium to 20 percent if the West agrees to at least remove part of sanctions against Tehran until the two sides reach a final agreement.

12. The goal of negotiations between Schmid and Baqeri has been declared as “finding a common ground and coordinating viewpoints between member states of the P5+1 and Iran and also to provide grounds for further negotiations between Jalili and Ashton.” However, all evidence shows that this objective has not been achieved yet.

Key Words: Baqeri - Schmid Negotiations, Istanbul, Sanctions and Negotiations, Common Grounds, Jalili and Ashton, Beheshtipour

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