Seeks genuine engagement, based on “mutual respect”
As the countdown for nuclear talks hosted by Kazakhstan begins, Iran has counselled the global powers to abandon their strategy of combining pressure and dialogue, and replace it with a policy of genuine engagement, based on “mutual respect”.
Speaking in New York at the Asia Society on Wednesday, Iran’s permanent representative to the U.N., Mohammad Khazaee urged the West to discard “the two-track policy of pressure and engagement” with Tehran.
Iran is holding talks on February 26 with the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany at a time when it has been shackled by several layers of suffocating sanctions. But Mr. Khazaee warned plainly that additional pressures would persuade Iran to walk away from dialogue. “More pressure can only beget more distrust, leading Iran, in turn, to lose hope in a negotiated settlement,” he said.
“As long as pressure is on Iran, as long as there is a sword on our neck to come to negotiations, this is not negotiations, therefore Iranians cannot accept that.”
Analysts do not anticipate a big breakthrough in next week’s talks unless the global powers have made up their mind for a deal that seeks to limit the scale and quality of uranium enrichment by Tehran, in return for a generous pledge for a step-by-step lifting of sanctions.
A new round of talks, which had commenced last May in Baghdad has failed to generate positive momentum so far. In Baghdad, the western powers were only prepared to provide aviation parts to Iran’s aging fleet of American aircraft, in return for a commitment by Tehran to freeze uranium enrichment to a 20 per cent level. Iran’s interlocutors also insisted that Tehran should shift its domestically enriched material abroad, and shut down its uranium enrichment facility of Fordow, near Qom. Hossein Mousavian, a former nuclear negotiator colourfully compared the western offer to one of “peanuts for diamonds”.
Observers say if they genuinely wished to make progress when they meet in Almaty — the venue of the upcoming talks — the western powers could consider the lifting of the unilateral sanctions that have been imposed by European Union on Iran’s Central Bank and the oil industry, in return for Tehran’s voluntary curbs on enrichment.
In anticipation of the dialogue, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei advised the global powers to do away with punitive measures, including sanctions, and change their coercive mentality if they wish to achieve success.
“Yes, sanctions mean pressure. There is no doubt. They are painful. But there are two ways to ease the pain. When weak nations come under pressure, they surrender to the enemy; they buckle; they repent,” said Ayatollah Khamenei, in a statement posted on the broadcaster Press TV’s website.
He added: “But a brave nation like the Iranian people, upon noticing that the enemy is exerting pressure, will try to activate its internal forces and cross the danger zone strongly and courageously. And they will certainly do so.”
Ayatollah Khamenei said a dialogue can have meaning only if the global powers “prove they do not stir mischief; they must show that they do not speak and act illogically; they must prove that they respect the rights of the Iranian people; they must show that they do not spark fires in the region; they must prove that they will not interfere in the Iranian nation’s affairs”.
Iran’s topmost leader also stressed that it was not on account of American pressure, but out of its free will that Iran had decided not to develop atomic weapons. “We believe that nuclear weapon is a crime against humanity and should not be produced…This is our own belief. It has nothing to do with you.”