Iran’s nuclear programme: does the deal-making start in Geneva?

John Kerry says ‘the window is open,’ as hopes rise of a constructive dialogue with country’s officials 

Diplomatic Correspondent

The international community and Iran will start talks over the country’s nuclear programme on Tuesday in a mood of cautious optimism and genuine hope of progress, traits not normally associated with these long-running series of meetings.

The conference in Geneva is the first since the election of the reformist Hassan Rouhani to the Iranian presidency and his highly publicised telephone conversation with Barack Obama. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has declared that the window for diplomacy is “cracking open” and there should, say officials, be the chance of constructive dialogue.

The Iranian government has announced that it will present a three-step plan which will allow it to continue developing a civilian programme while supposedly reassuring the outside world that it has not embarked on producing nuclear weapons.

But, at the same time, Tehran has stated that it will not allow its stocks of uranium to be sent abroad for enrichment, a demand of the six states, including the US, Britain and Russia, carrying out the negotiations.

Abbas Araqchi, the Deputy Foreign Minister, was combative on Sunday: “Shipping the material abroad is our red line. We will not surrender or suspend uranium enrichment in any situation… We will not allow even a gram of uranium to go out of the country.”

Some of that, however, is thought to be for the consumption of hardliners in Iran who have already complained that President Rouhani has made “inappropriate” remarks during his recent visit to the UN.

Mr Araqchi could also afford to make a show of taking a tough stance publicly because the highly powerful Parliamentary Speaker, Ali Larijani, has already strongly hinted at concessions being made on the point, saying that the country had a surplus of enriched uranium and hinting that further negotiations were possible.

Western diplomats point out that even a flat refusal to send uranium abroad may not be a deal-breaker if Tehran agrees to proper international supervision in converting its enriched uranium into safe mode inside the country. Iranian officials have suggested that the stockpiles could be turned into fuel cells for a research reactor.

The Iranians would, however, want a relaxation of the international sanctions, which have begun to severely hurt the economy, in return for concessions on their part. Mr Araqchi said:

“We need to move towards a trust-building road map with the Westerners. To them, trust-building means taking some steps in the nuclear issue, for us this happens when sanctions are lifted.”

This would not be an easy process, especially as far as the American sanctions are concerned. The US Congress, with pressure from the Israeli lobby, remains suspicious of Iranian motives and has just passed further punitive sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports.

The Obama administration also remains sensitive on this issue. While speaking of the diplomatic opportunities, Mr Kerry was also at pains to reassure the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “I want you to know that our eyes are open too. Words must be matched with actions.”

Mr Kerry, it is believed, will stay away from the talks, with the American delegation likely to be led by the Under-Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, something which, say Iranian officials, is a disappointment. “If the world powers are serious, they must up the level of the talks to that of foreign ministers” said Mr Araqchi.

The next step may be Iran signing the “additional protocol” which allows the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) greater powers to carry out inspections, collect samples and conduct interviews with scientists. This was agreed 10 years ago when Mr Rouhani was Tehran’s senior nuclear negotiator, but ended after an impasse over talks and the start of sanctions.

Whatever happens, Western diplomats are only too aware of “Banquo’s ghost” in these talks. The final decision by Iran on its nuclear programme will need the agreement of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. As one American official said: “Obviously the talks in these two days are potentially very important, but so would be the talks that take place back in Iran. You can bet we’ll have a team of analysts going through all the nuances of whatever the Supreme Leader has to say on the matter.”

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star