Iran, six global powers focus on framework of confidence building measures

Iran and the six global powers have commenced crucial talks that are likely to focus on a framework of confidence building measures that could culminate in erasing western fears of military diversion, and allow Tehran sanction-free access to peaceful nuclear energy.

An air of anticipation gripped the talks after an unnamed senior official from the Obama administration, on background, briefed the media about the second instalment of nuclear talks in Geneva. He pointed out that there could be some easing of sanctions, if Iran agreed to freeze its nuclear programme, and showed readiness for a partial roll back. The New York Times quoted the official as saying: “Put simply, what we’re looking for now is a first phase, a first step, an initial understanding that stops Iran’s nuclear programme from moving forward for the first time in decades and that potentially rolls part of it back.”

On their part, the Iranians are also exuding considerable confidence about the outcome of the talks. Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told France 24 television en route to Geneva that building on the progress that had already been achieved earlier “it is even possible to reach that agreement this week, [but if] we don’t make a breakthrough at this round, it’s not a disaster.”

The Iranian media is reporting that during the first round of two-day talks that ended on October 16, Mr. Zarif had made an elegant Power Point presentation that was hopefully titled: “Closing an Unnecessary Crisis, and Opening a New Horizon.”

While details have are yet to revealed of a confidence building spiral that could lift sanctions incrementally, current negotiations are likely to focus on Iran’s 20 per cent enrichment of uranium, which, potentially, takes Tehran closer to the bomb that requires enrichment above a 90 per cent level.

The website Al Monitor, quoting a Washington-based western diplomat is reporting that Iran’s interlocutors would insist that Tehran halts construction of its Arak heavy water reactor, which could support the development of plutonium-based atomic bomb.

The possibility of a breakthrough in the two-day talks is expected to hinge on “reversible steps” that either side can take in the initial stage. For instance, in return for 20 per cent freeze in uranium enrichment by Iran, the global powers could allow Tehran access to some of the oil revenues that are accumulating in countries like Japan, China and India, which continue to purchase Iranian crude. If either side reneges from its commitments during this phase, return to the status quo will remain an option.

Iran’s interlocutors — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany — are also seeking the definition of an “end result” that they wish to achieve, which could become a reference point to channel confidence building steps.

The Iranians are expressing readiness to be accommodative, but insist that they would not relinquish their “right” to enrich uranium. Some Iranian analysts say Tehran would not give up 5 per cent uranium enrichment, as this would be required to produce fuel for its civilian atomic power plants in the future.

The escalatory process of confidence building is in line with the Russian step-by-step proposal, observers say. This initiative, aired by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in 2011 envisaged that sanctions against Iran should progressively decrease as it addresses concerns about its nuclear programme.

The expectation of a solid outcome at the Geneva talks has triggered a negative response from Israel. Israel will “strongly oppose” a proposal that world powers are “examining” regarding Iran’s nuclear programme, senior Israeli officials said, The Jerusalem Post reported. The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has launched a feverish Twitter campaign invoking “The Real Face of Iran,” where pictures have been posted of the recent protests, during which, demonstrators marking 34 years of the siege of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, chanted “Death to America” and torched American flags.

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