Did Istanbul Negotiations Fail?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mohammad Sadri

Active ImagePerhaps it is not correct to consider Istanbul negotiations a failure. Careful review of what happened in two-day talks will reveal that it is 5+1 which has failed to impose its views on Iran. After Iran succeeded to impose its agenda of “negotiation for cooperation” on the western side during Geneva talks, Tehran refused to focus on anything else, but that agenda.

Iran offered a few practical proposals to 5+1 during the first round of Istanbul negotiations at Friday morning. The proposals shocked 5+1 because, firstly, they did not expect Iran to take that approach to negotiations, and secondly, Iran proved by insisting on “common grounds for negotiation” that it was committed to Geneva agenda and had worked on that agenda to come up with practical proposals within its framework. In the meantime, 5+1 did not offer any practical proposal which could fit within the framework of Geneva agenda and sufficed to repeating old claims whose answer had been already given by Iran in Geneva. Iran, on the other side, requested 5+1 to stop reiterating past claims and focus instead on the agenda already accepted by both sides.

Faced with Iran’s initiative, 5+1 turned it down and did not even accept to continue further negotiations on the basis of common grounds.

In the second round of negotiations at Friday evening, Iran took a further step ahead by offering operational mechanisms for the implementation of proposals it’s had presented in the first round. This was the second surprise for 5+1. The group had announced before negotiations that it would look for a modality with Iran in Istanbul, which could set the framework for a long series of bilateral talks. However, due to various reasons, including internal differences following the first round of negotiations, 5+1 did not offer any proposal even on this subject. Iran offered its modality in the second round of negotiations when 5+1 had nothing to say. Ashton and her colleagues continued to repeat past allegations about the need for Iran to build confidence about its nuclear program. Perhaps, 5+1 had failed to agree on a single modality to be presented to Iran due to internal differences.

Iran’s initiatives, that is, offering practical proposals in the first round and presenting a clear-cut executive mechanism in the second round, totally imbalanced 5+1. This was not, however, the end of the story and Iran had another trump to play which totally changed the overall air of the negotiations.

Iran’s final step was to explain the logic of negotiations to 5+1, which should have been confined to Geneva agenda of “negotiation for cooperation on common grounds.” It was clear that 5+1 had no clear understanding of that agenda. As Mr. Jalili said in his press conference, Iran maintains that only dialogue based on cooperation can progress. In other words, if the west wants negotiations to proceed, it should abide by commitments it has accepted in Geneva and limit negotiations to “common cooperation grounds.”

Active ImageIn addition, as Dr. Jalili noted, Iran maintains that there are requisites for negotiations aimed at cooperation the most important of which include: 1. respect for the rights of Iran, including the right to enrich uranium; and 2. stop disrespect for Iran’s rights as they did by adopting anti-Iran resolutions at the UN Security Council followed by international sanctions. Iran emphasized that it was not responsible for redressing the other side’s mistakes and if 5+1 has already made a mistake which may harm negotiations, it should act fast to remedy it. This was not brought up as precondition, but as a logical requisite for negotiations aimed at fostering cooperation between 5+1 and Iran.

The western negotiators, for their turn, did their best to relive the outdated calls for the necessity of confidence building. Western sources wrote that 5+1 was willing for Iran to take the first step for confidence building (for example, by accepting nuclear swap in a different way than was proposed in Vienna) before discussing other matters could start. Western sources, for instance, had pointed to possible proposal of fuel swap by 5+1 during negotiations. Iran, however, believed that this issue could be only negotiated if it were brought up as a common ground for cooperation and any other demand from 5+1 could not have motivated the Iranian side. In Iran’s view, swap or any other issue could have been included in negotiations only as a common cooperation ground, but the western side apparently did not share Iran’s view.

Last but not least, Iran had the upper hand in Istanbul negotiation while the western side was still bugged by serious miscalculations and thought it could ask for more concessions from Iran. Tehran has, once more, proved that “logical cooperation” is the only way ahead. Iran was frank and offered practical mechanisms for the implementation of its proposals and did not step down from the agenda agreed during Geneva negotiations. Iran delineated obligations for further cooperation with 5+1 and asked the group to comply with those obligations. It finally pointed out that further negotiation would be only possible within this framework.

Source: Nuclear Iran
Translated By: Iran Review

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