US, Iran discuss next round of nuclear talks

February 03, 2014 - 6:37:43 am

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Yukiya Amano (left), and the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the 50th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, Germany, yesterday.

MUNICH, Germany: US Secretary of State John Kerry told his Iranian counterpart yesterday that both sides needed to negotiate in good faith to resolve Western fears and doubts over Iran’s contested nuclear programme.

World powers hold another round of talks with Iran on February 18 after reaching an initial accord in November to curb uranium enrichment and open up nuclear facilities to allay concerns Tehran is seeking atomic weapons.

Kerry and Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif “discussed the upcoming negotiations with the P5+1 and the EU on a comprehensive agreement that will begin in Vienna next month”, a senior US State Department official said.

“Kerry reiterated the importance of both sides negotiating in good faith and Iran abiding by its commitments under the Joint Plan of Action (agreed in November),” said the official.

“He also made clear that the United States will continue to enforce existing sanctions,” he added. Zarif later told a panel at the Munich Security Conference that “it would be a major mistake for our friends to believe that we are here because sanctions have been effective.” Rather, they had only had the opposite effect and caused “a lot of resentment”, he said, describing a very large “trust deficit” needing to be overcome after years of suspicion.

Zarif, saying he believed a deal is possible, stressed that the election of moderate President Hassan Rowhani last year reflected Iranians’ desire for “a constructive engagement with the international community which will bring mutual respect”.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told the panel there had been many missed opportunities.

“I do not know if (the talks) will succeed or not but it would be truly criminal not to do everything to make (them) succeed,” Bildt said. 

But the West, unconvinced and worried by signs of possible atomic weapons development, imposed ever tighter sanctions hoping to stop Iran getting to a “break-out” point. In November, Iran agreed with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany that it would roll back the programme and open it up to wider inspections. In return, the world powers agreed to partially lift tough sanctions that have caused immense damage to the Iranian economy.