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.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses paparazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
News
i100
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
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

Technical Manager – Heat Pumps

£40000 Per Annum dependent on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: They ...

Test Job

TBC: Test Recruiter for iJobs: Job London (Greater)

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Senior Developer - HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, VBA, SQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are working with one o...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis