Reflections on Istanbul Meeting between Iran and P5+1

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Abolqasem Qasemzadeh

Presuming that readers of this article have kept abreast of news and reports on the recent Istanbul meeting between Iran and group P5+1 – including the US, Britain, Russia, France, China, and Germany –, here, we will focus on some considerations about the results of Istanbul talks.

1. Both sides said at the end of the meeting that the new round of bilateral negotiations had worked to reduce tensions. While expressing their satisfaction over general process of negotiations, American officials clearly noted that nobody expects all differences to be ironed out in a single meeting. They said they just wanted a positive atmosphere to be created. Therefore, changing the past negative attitude and adopting a positive approach to Iran’s nuclear case was the most important change in the way that the Western negotiators dealt with their Iranian counterparts.

2. Analysts believe that Istanbul meeting is important because in previous rounds of talks, both sides engaged in negotiations while under the influence of a general air of distrust and both sides stressed that lack of trust was the most important problem faced by negotiating parties. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, pointed to recent remarks of the Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei who clearly noted that building nuclear weapons was haram (forbidden) in Islam. She added that the West should accept peaceful use of the nuclear energy by Iran. During the meeting, the two sides also agreed on continued inspection of the Iranian nuclear facilities by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and opening of new avenues for the Agency to fulfill its mission.

It seems that Istanbul meeting has somehow facilitated and improved Iran’s relations with IAEA, so that, instead of adopting a new controversial report, it would focus on its legal duty which is “verification” of peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities. In this way, IAEA will be more satisfied with its future missions with regard to Iran’s nuclear case.

3. Many political analysts in the West have called new round of talks between Iran and the West in Istanbul a complete turnaround. The reason for this turnaround, they say, is critical economic conditions in Europe and domestic problems with which the European states are grappling and which have faced those states with financial and social crises. The United States’ new oil sanctions against Iran have dealt a new blow to most of the European states facing them with yet new problems to solve. Data and information provided to the European Union by the European political experts prove that Iran’s nuclear activities are carried out on a limited scale for peaceful applications of the nuclear energy. They have noted that claims about diversion in Iran’s nuclear program toward military purposes are just the result of one-sided propaganda and political drive launched, especially by the Zionist regime of Israel. Those experts have also seriously warned political heads of EU states that escalation of political tension will draw them into the vortex of a full-blown war or, at least, outright military confrontation. They have noted that such a war would be a great risk which would harm all sides and it is not possible to predict how far its devastation may spread. They have also noted that the aftermath of such a war will have negative consequences, not only at the regional level, but also at international and global levels. Sooner or later, they say, both sides should have reached the conclusion that they have to end their propaganda cold war, verbal threats and escalation of political tension in favor of more dialogue and collaboration. Istanbul meeting introduced a new idea of “dialogue and cooperation” which was proposed by Iran and accepted by P5+1.

4. The US presidential elections will be held only six months from now and heated election campaigns are going on in the United States between Democrat and Republican parties. Obama is also running for president. The main problem facing presidential hopefuls is financial and economic problems nagging the United States as well as foreign policy problems that the country has to deal with in the Middle East, especially, with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran. None of the candidates has so far come up with a new plan to solve the country’s large-scale economic problems and improve people’s general livelihood. There are rumors and slanders going around in the political milieu which governs the country in the run-up to elections. Obama’s track records are, relatively, more acceptable to the American people and to further promote his agenda, Obama needs to keep tensions in the US foreign relations down during the few months which remain before elections begin. The Middle East is now the focus of this tension where ongoing crises in Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain are already causing enough trouble for Washington. During the past two months, there has been countless number of media reports claiming that Iran is urgently pursuing to make the nuclear bomb and emerge as an existential threat to Israel. Also, the Western media tried to make the world believe in the past few weeks that a new war was doubtlessly brewing in the Persian Gulf region. They incessantly published news items, editorials, op-eds, and interviews on this subject and kept counting down to that war. They had created conditions that the war seemed inevitable and the main question was whether it would be initiated by Israel, the US, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

That media current had led to a reign of terror in the European and American societies. That atmosphere was very detrimental to Obama and his election campaign. The turnaround in Istanbul and during new talks between Iran and the West created a suitable atmosphere in the US foreign policy for Obama. Firstly, it proved that Washington is distancing itself from militarism and war claims. Secondly, it abated the psychological war launched by the Western media about Iran being bent on building nuclear weapons. Thirdly, it proved that differences with Iran are going to be resolved peacefully. Most Western analysts believe that Democrats and their prominent candidate, Obama, have made the most out of Istanbul talks for the forthcoming presidential elections. US envoy’s insistence on meeting Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and wide coverage of that development were meant only for political purposes. On the whole, American officials have welcomed the new round of negotiations as a means of building mutual confidence.

5. Russia and China, on the other hand, have also welcomed Istanbul negotiations as a success and have expressed satisfaction that the general course of Iran’s nuclear case has changed from confrontation to understanding. Both Moscow and Beijing are willing for differences to be resolved in a way that would not harm free energy flow, especially oil exports, from the Persian Gulf region and to prevent creation of new crises as much as possible.

6. As for uranium enrichment, which has been a major cause of difference between the two sides, the Western negotiators did not specify a ceiling for Iranian enrichment activities and this has been considered a positive index for continuation of negotiations on the basis of mutual trust.

7. Before negotiations began, all political analysts expected Istanbul meeting to break the deadlock of negotiations. They even wrote that if Istanbul talks only managed to break the deadlock with no other obvious achievement, it would still be a great victory. The deadlock that had practically stalled further negotiations between the two sides was broken in Istanbul and they agreed to start a second round of talks in Baghdad on May 23 where specific executive plans will be discussed by both sides’ experts. In the meantime, they are going to agree on the general agenda of the next round of talks which will be presented during the forthcoming negotiations in Baghdad.

The Istanbul meeting was a desirable beginning both for Iran and P5+1. The question is will that beginning in Istanbul lead to more broad-based and satisfactory results in Baghdad? Last but not least, hosting the meeting by Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and strong support provided by the country’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, proved that friendly relations between Iran and Turkey are still in place and will continue to be so.

Key Words: Iran-P5+1, Iran, Turkey, Negotiations, Sanctions, Enrichment, Qasemzadeh

Source: Ettelaat Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review

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