Big powers accept Iran offer of nuclear talks
Brussels, March 6, 2012
Six world powers have accepted an Iranian offer for talks on its disputed nuclear programme, the European Union's top diplomat said on Tuesday.
The announcement by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton came shortly after Russia called for a resumption of face-to-face dialogue as soon as possible, saying an Iranian letter last month showed it was now ready for serious negotiations.
With Israel speaking increasingly loudly of resorting to military action, the talks could provide some respite in a crisis which has driven up oil prices and threatened to suck the US into its third major war in a decade.
Iran's nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, wrote to Ashton in February saying Tehran wanted to reopen negotiations and offering to bring unspecified "new initiatives" to the table.
"Today I have replied to Dr Jalili's letter of Feb 14," Ashton, speaking on behalf of the six powers after weeks of consultations with them, said in a statement. "I have offered to resume talks with Iran on the nuclear issue."
Ashton, who represents the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany in dealings with Iran, said the date and venue for the talks would now have to be agreed.
"Our overall goal remains a comprehensive negotiated, long-term solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme, while respecting Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy," Ashton said in her reply to Jalili.
Western states are likely to tread cautiously, mindful of past accusations that Iran's willingness to talk has been a stalling tactic to blunt pressure and not a route to agreement. - Reuters