Iran and the P5+1 group began a crucial round of talks here on Monday, with diplomats offering conflicting views on the atmosphere and progress.
“We had some constructive and serious discussions on the first day of talks,” said Deputy Secretary of the Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Bagheri.
However, European Union foreign policy spokesman Michael Mann described the exchange of views as “intense and tough.” Earlier in the day, Russian government news agency Itar-Tass quoted a diplomat close to the talks as saying there were “no positive signals” at the talks and the sides “failed to reach any agreement.”
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who represents Russia at the talks, said the main problem was that positions of the two sides were hard to reconcile.
“The main stumbling block is that the positions of the sides are hard to reconcile,” he told the Interfax news wire.
The Iranian delegation is led by Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Saeed Jalili. The P5+1 group of six international mediators — Russia, Britain, China, the USA, France, and Germany — is headed by High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton.
Russia’s Kommersant daily said a compromise plan on the table in Moscow involved Iran’s consent to scale down its uranium enrichment at the Natanz nuclear facility from 20 percent to 3.5 or 5 per cent; close or halt production at the Fordo plant; and allow international inspection of the Parchin military site. In exchange, Iran may be offered a gradual lifting of sanctions as soon as it fulfils one of the demands. It will also be granted permission to go ahead with the production of fuel rods for the medical research reaction in Tehran using its existing stock of higher-enriched uranium.
In excerpts of an interview published on Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran may accept a compromise on enrichment if Europe provides Iran with 20 per cent enriched fuel.
However, EU is refusing to freeze its oil embargo — scheduled to come into effect on July 1.
“The sanctions come into force on July 1 because nothing has changed on the ground,” E.U. spokesman Mann said in Moscow on Monday.
Experts also said U.S. President Barack Obama cannot afford to agree to Iran’s right to enrichment ahead of the presidential election later this year.
The Moscow talks follow two rounds of Iran-G5+1 negotiation in Turkey and Iraq over the past two months.