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.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Property Inspection Inventory Clerk

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a fast growing in...

Recruitment Genius: PSV/PCV & HGV Mechanics

£29000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: PSV/PCV Mechanics & HGV mechani...

Recruitment Genius: Reprographics Operator

£12500 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest independent Reprogr...

Recruitment Genius: Web Design Apprentice

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee