Iran and the six global powers embarked on a new round of nuclear talks in Vienna, which is expected to yield progress, without achieving a breakthrough for a comprehensive nuclear deal.
The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, who is representing Moscow at the talks, summed up the mood of possible calibrated success ahead of the commencement of Tuesday's talks. “Everyone is in the working mood and there are grounds to hope that progress will be achieved but without crucial agreements since this is only the second round,” observed Mr. Ryabkov upon his arrival in the Austrian capital on Monday. Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and Catherine Ashton, the European foreign policy chief are heading the talks that include, apart from Russia, official representatives from the United States, Britain, France, China and Germany.
Ahead of the dialogue, Mr. Zarif also pointed to the possibility of incremental achievement in Vienna. He said on Monday that talks would focus on enrichment of uranium, which, if purified above the 90 per cent level can be used for making an atomic bomb. Under the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) signed last November in Geneva, Iran agreed to halt its on-going 20 per cent uranium enrichment, and dilute or irreversibly turn into fuel, the existing stockpile of this material.
Mr. Zarif said that negotiations would also cover the Arak heavy water reactor, which can yield plutonium, provided it is separated from spent fuel, using a cumbersome chemical process. Iran is yet to develop the infrastructure in Arak to carry out this separation. Iran's top diplomat also observed that an “exchange views on peaceful nuclear cooperation and sanctions”, is on the cards in Vienna.
Press TV, Iran's English language broadcaster is reporting that Mr. Zarif and Ms. Ashton met on Tuesday —their meeting following up on the agenda-setting talks the previous day between Syed Abbas Araqchi, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, and Deputy Foreign Minister for legal and international affairs, and Helga Schmid, Ms. Ashton's deputy. The talks in Vienna follow earlier expert-level negotiations on February 20 that were also held in the Austrian capital.
In tune with the talks that are expected to spillover to Wednesday, the website Al Monitor is reporting that top western think tanks — the Institute for Science and International Security, the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies of the Monterey Institute for International Studies, the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, the Arms Control Association and the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies — are deeply involved in working out the crucial components of a comprehensive nuclear deal between Iran and its interlocutors.
Keywords: Iran nuclear programme, International sanctions, Uranium enrichment, Iran nuclear facility sabotage, Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Iran heavy water reactor, Natanz uranium enrichment facility, Stuxnet virus