Iran, P5+1 Expert Level Talks in Istanbul

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hassan Beheshtipour
Expert on International Affairs

The trajectory of the talks between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers had already twice passed through Istanbul before the two sides convened in the Turkish city again on July 3, for expert-level technical meetings.

The objective of the latest talks was declared as finding a common ground between the packages of proposals earlier exchanged by both sides.

And now, as announced by the European Union, the talks will continue with EU Deputy Secretary General for the External Action Service Helga Schmid and Deputy Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Baqeri.

But why such a tortuous and protracted path? Was there no shorter route to finding a resolution to the Iranian nuclear energy issue? A look back at the 2012 talks will pay dividends in the quest to find an answer to these questions.

In the Istanbul and Baghdad talks both sides agreed to draw up a “road map,” or a “framework”, or a “Procedure” for the negotiations. The subsequently drafted road map consisted of “guiding principles,” “objectives” “the structure of the procedure,” “issues (nuclear and non-nuclear),” and “steps.”

It was also agreed that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) form the foundation for the talks, while step-by-step negotiations were specified as the means for reaching a consensus.

At that stage Iran underlined three features for any reciprocal steps:

1. The homogeneity of the steps to be taken by both sides. In other words, the measures taken by either side should be reciprocated by a move of the same nature by the other party. So, if Iran were to take a legal measure, the other party would also have to take a legal step and a technical move would prompt a technical measure, etc.

2. Balance in the weight of the measures, i.e. if Iran is to take an important step, the other party should come back with an equally important measure.

3. Simultaneity, meaning that the two sides could coordinate to carry out their agreed measures at the same time. This will alleviate any concerns of potential dishonoring of promises and falling behind with pledges.

The Moscow talks, however, began while there was still no agreement on the details of the considerations of both sides. The problem was specially aggravated by the fact that the package put forward by the P5+1 was incapable of opening up a new path for reaching mutual agreement due to its substantive weakness, disregard of the present realities, and finally for its one-sidedness.

In the latest talks in Istanbul the experts set about to examine the P5+1 package, offered by Wendy Sherman, the US representative in the talks. Legally and technically, the proposal was fraught with many erroneous and ambiguous statements. Some of the clauses were in direct contravention of the international regulations and some were simply irreconcilable with the realities on the ground. Some of the flaws in the package are as follows:

Structural Problems

The reciprocal measures laid out in the package were also too general and vague. For instance, it was unknown how the necessary uranium for the Tehran Research Reactor were to be provided or by which country or organization.

The P5+1 package also lacked a timeline. For example, it was not clear when the suspension of 20 percent uranium enrichment should be carried out and for how long.

Substantive Problems

1. The demand made on Iran to halt its 20 percent uranium enrichment is tantamount to depriving the Iranian nation from their inalienable right as documented in the Article IV of NPT, and various other sources.

2. The demand to abandon the 20 percent nuclear enrichment is also at odds with established international trends:

A. The NPT implementation over the past decades.

B. Lack of objection toward the nuclear fuel cycle and enrichment activities of countries like Brazil, Argentina, and Japan, etc. by the P5+1.

Iran says it needs the 20 percent enriched uranium for peaceful nuclear activities within the framework of the NPT and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulations to provide the fuel for its research reactors to put to medical uses.

After the West refrained from selling to Iran its needed fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) in 2010 and rejected the Tehran Declaration, which was suggested by a P5+1 member for exchanging fuel with the Islamic Republic, the country decided to make its own supply of fuel under IAEA inspection.

3. The illegal demands for shutting the Fordow site

Under what logic and according to which law must Iran suspend all of its activities in Fordow, including the five and 20 percent enrichment programs?

The Western countries claim to be concerned about the activities that they allege Iran is secretly carrying out. But the Fordow site is under the 24-hour inspection of the IAEA and all of its activities are registered. So why all the concerns?

The P5+1 allegation about the military status of the Fordow site is also unfounded. None of the equipments, items, designs and systems in Fordow is capable of producing or collecting highly enriched material.

In his periodic reports, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has also clearly confirmed that all of the equipments and activities in Fordow are peaceful and under the agency’s inspection.

By adamantly insisting on their defeated dual track policy of “pressure and talks,” the West has spurned the opportunity for a much easier solution based on “cooperation and negotiations”.

This is while an agreement on a win-win strategy can open new windows for international and regional peace and security. Beating the drums of sanctions against Iran will push the country to adopting a resolute measure which could mean a new war in the already crisis-stricken Middle East region. This, undoubtedly, will serve no one’s interests.

Source: Press TV

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