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New Expectations Arise as Almaty Talks End

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Abolqasem Qasemzadeh
Expert on Middle East Issues

Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers have so far attended nine rounds of negotiations with the main focus being Iran's nuclear energy program. The first three rounds were held in the Swiss city of Geneva, followed by a long interregnum after which there were two rounds of talks in the Turkish port city of Istanbul. Subsequently, one round of talks was held in the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad, one round in the Russian capital, Moscow – which was characterized with the proposition of a comprehensive plan by the Islamic Republic of Iran for the resolution of differences and forging an agreement between the two sides – and two more rounds were held in the Kazakh city of Almaty. The two rounds of negotiations in Almaty have been known as Almaty 1 and 2 talks. At the end of Almaty 1, political and technical experts from both sides met in late March in Istanbul to prepare the agenda of the second round of Almaty talks which had been scheduled to be held on April 5 and 6. Following the first round of talks in Almaty, like previous rounds of negotiations, little information was made available to the media by the official representatives of Iran (Mr. Saeed Jalili) and the P5+1 group (Ms. Catherine Ashton). They simply announced that the two sides’ representatives would meet in Turkish city of Istanbul to make way for the achievement of a final agreement during Almaty 2 negotiations. Almaty 2 talks are over now, but no clear-cut report on the details of the negotiations has been released by either side to the negotiations. What can be gathered from press conferences of Mr. Jalili and Ms. Ashton is that Iran has offered more accurate or “more applied” proposals to facilitate achievement of an agreement with the P5+1. Ms. Ashton, on the other hand, told reporters in her press conference that Iran's proposals will be forwarded by the representatives of the P5+1 to foreign ministers of their respective countries. Then, the final opinion and official decision of those governments will be communicated to Mr. Jalili in a phone call after which the date and venue of further talks will be decided. At the end of the Almaty talks the US representative told reports that the meeting was neither a failure, nor a breakthrough. He added that the two sides should wait for the answer that Ms. Ashton, as the representative of the P5+1, would give Mr. Jalili, as the representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the decision on the date and venue of a new round of bilateral talks.

Since Almaty 2 talks ended on Sunday, political circles have been giving different opinions on the outcome of those negotiations and most of those opinions are based on guesswork because no official information has yet been revealed on four rounds of talks in a period of two days, which constituted the most intensive round of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group.

Some political circles believe that Almaty 2 talks have not produced any tangible results, quoting Ms. Ashton as saying about the outcome of negotiations that “what matters in the end is substance, and … we are still a considerable distance apart.” Of course, such circles do not describe Almaty 2 as a total failure, but they believe that it has been futile and only meant to buy more time by both sides.

There is also another group of political analysts who have carefully monitored the negotiations and now believe that Almaty 2 was not a deadlock, but a step forward. They argue that it has been a step forward because both sides have gone beyond general theories to focus on clear executive articles.

The main points of difference have been clearly laid out in the meeting in addition to all the measures which should be taken step by step to find a solution to those problems. The end of Almaty 2 has been in fact the beginning of new expectations and the positive or negative scale of those expectations will be only revealed in the near future.

Apart from these two views, there are still others who maintain that the forthcoming presidential election in Iran, which will be held in less than three months and bring a new government to power in the Islamic Republic, has already weighed down on any final decision which may be taken by the P5+1 group. They say both sides of the negotiations have actually deferred a final agreement until Iran's presidential polls are over. From this standpoint, the issue of bilateral talks between Iran and the United States has become more important and any result of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group is now conditioned on direct talks between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Obama administration. According to this line of thinking and from the viewpoint of such political circles, countries like Germany, France, Russia, and China are no more focusing their main policies on the issue of Iran's nuclear energy program as they have come to the conclusion that the acceptance of any proposal by the P5+1 would depend on the quality of bilateral ties between Tehran and Washington. Iran also knows that other member states of the P5+1 group are playing no determining role in the success of the negotiations as they are influenced by the US views.

Between the end of Almaty 2 talks and the phone call that Ms. Ashton is supposed to put to his Iranian counterpart, Mr. Jalili, for which no clear date has been given so far, Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency Mr. [Yukiya] Amano may take to the mass media again expressing concern over Iran's nuclear activities while, at the same time, putting emphasis on Iran's right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Such a measure would be taken in order to keep the media hype around Iran's nuclear case alive. Of course, after four rounds of talks in the Kazakh city of Almaty, Ms. Ashton, who in addition to leading the P5+1 representatives is also the European Union’s foreign policy chief, noted that for the first time the two sides had entered the details of proposals though the member states of the P5+1 group – which include the United States, the UK, France, Russia, and China plus Germany – needed more time for consultation. She, however, noted that the P5+1 were still committed to the continuation of negotiations with Iran. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who represented Moscow in Almaty talks with Iran, expressed hope that a date would be set for the next round of negotiations. On the other hand, the representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran took part in a news conference at the end of the negotiations. Jalili told reporters that “during this round of talks, suspension of unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States was one of the main topics for discussion.” “In fact,” he added, “if there are people who want to win Iran's trust, they should avoid treating the Iranian nation with hostility. This is a major issue which we have had with the P5+1 and a recommendation we have given them.”

The viewpoints expressed by both sides to the negotiations show that Iran's nuclear energy case is not actually bugged by technical glitches, but the main Gordian knot is about the political relations between Iran and the West, especially Tehran’s relations with Washington. Almaty 2 talks clearly conveyed the message that the main factor which sets the direction of Tehran’s negotiations with the P5+1 group is the situation of bilateral talks between Iran and the United States. The end of Almaty negotiations in Kazakhstan has actually given rise to new expectations among international political circles as they are now expecting Obama administration to propose direct bilateral ties to Iran. The main indices of such expectations will transpire within the next three months and following the presidential election in Iran. The P5+1 group is currently looking forward to the results of two major political developments. The first development is the forthcoming presidential polls in Iran with the second one being the future course of bilateral talks between Iran and the United States. Therefore, the final outcome of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group, either negative or positive, will become clear at most within the next few months.

Key Words: Almaty Talks, New Expectations, Iran, P5+1, Presidential Election, US, Nuclear Program, Qasemzadeh

Source: Ettelaat Newspaper
http://www.ettelaat.com
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

More By Abolqasem Qasemzadeh:

*West Becomes More Realistic: The Change of Position on Iran: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/West-Becomes-More-Realistic-The-Change-of-Position-on-Iran.htm

*Suspension for Suspension!: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/Suspension-for-Suspension-.htm

*The Policy of Closed Doors and Semi-Open Window: http://www.iranreview.org/content/Documents/The-Policy-of-Closed-Doors-and-Semi-Open-Window.htm

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