Western Diplomats Hoping for ‘Something Substantial’ in Iran Talks

Posted April 14th, 2012 at 7:20 am (UTC-5)
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Western diplomats remain cautious but are hoping to make progress as they sit down with Iranian negotiators for the first time in more than a year.

Representatives from six of the world's top powers met with Iranian officials Saturday in Istanbul to discuss Tehran's controversial nuclear program.

Michael Mann, the spokesman for European Union Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton, told reporters they are hoping progress can be made.

“We are hopeful that there will be a willingness on both sides and a good atmosphere to have a substantial negotiations, and that we will be able to announce the second round of talks, but it will be based on something substantial. We are hoping to kick off a process here.''

Mann described the atmosphere surrounding the talks as friendly but made clear that any progress will depend on Iranian negotiators showing “they are prepared to come into line with their international obligations.''

Security in Istanbul has been tight for the high stakes meeting between between Iranian diplomats and representatives of the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia .

Tehran has faced Western sanctions over accusations that it is trying to develop a nuclear bomb. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful use.

Earlier this week, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator said his country would present unspecified new initiatives at the talks, but warned that efforts by the West to exert pressure on Tehran would “backfire.” Saeed Jalili also said efforts to use what he called the “language of force” against Iran would be “useless.”

Because of continuing gaps in negotiating positions, Brookings Institution senior fellow Michael O'Hanlon says most analysts do not think the talks will succeed.

“I think it's fairly clear that Iran has no particular interest in detente with the outside world. No interest in knowing or acknowledging that it has been squeezed into submission and it does want a nuclear weapon capability at some level.”

But Michael Singh, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says the talks could produce results because Iran is facing huge international pressure.

“I hope that these talks will validate the strategy of trying to use pressure in conjunction with diplomacy to get the Iranians to really shift their course, to change their approach to this nuclear question.”