Obama Pledges Push to Resume Iran Talks

By Davenport, Kelsey | Arms Control Today, December 2012 | Go to article overview

Obama Pledges Push to Resume Iran Talks


Davenport, Kelsey, Arms Control Today


President Barack Obama said last month that he would "try to make a push in the coming months" to resume talks with Iran over its controversial nuclear program, but did not specify when negotiations were likely to resume.

In comments during a Nov. 14 press conference, Obama added a note of caution, saying, "I can't promise that Iran will walk through the door that they need to walk through." But he also said, "[W]e want to get this resolved, and we're not going to be constrained by diplomatic niceties or protocols."

High-level meetings between Iran and six world powers (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) stalled in June when both sides said they felt that little progress was being made to close the gaps that existed between their differing positions. The June negotiations were the third round of talks in as many months.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Oct. 21 that talks could resume at the end of November. (See ACT, November 2012.) At the press conference, however, Obama dismissed the prospect of imminent talks as not true "as of today."

The six countries, or P5+1, met in Brussels on Nov. 21 to discuss strategy for resuming negotiations with Iran. A spokesperson for Catherine Ashton, the lead negotiator for the P5+1, said Nov. 21 that the six countries agreed to hold a new round of talks "as soon as possible" and that Iran would be contacted "in the coming days." The spokesperson did not say whether the P5+1 discussed modifications to its negotiating proposal.

Iranian Ambassador to Russia Reza Sajjadi said in a Nov. 19 press conference that he had conveyed to the Russian government that Iran is prepared for new negotiations. He said a priority for Iran when talks resume is to receive a "formal response" from the P5+1 to the negotiating proposal Tehran presented during the last rounds of high-level meetings. (See ACT, July/August 2012.)

Former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said on Nov. 26 that the United States should consider supplementing the P5+1 talks by establishing a "parallel dialogue" with Iran. Speaking at an event sponsored by the National Iranian American Council and the Arms Control Association, Brzezinksi said one reason for pursuing that approach is that the long-range motives of P5+1 members China and Russia remain unclear. Although the official position of both countries is to pursue negotiations to resolve the Iranian nuclear controversy, there could be individual officials in China or Russia that may be ambivalent about pursuing an immediate settlement of this issue, he said.

Brzezinski also warned against pursing "strangling" sanctions that could increase the likelihood of conflict. He said there is a fine line between such sanctions and those that are "painful. …

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