Is a Persian Spring in the offing? Public statements at the ongoing Munich Security Conference by three of the six countries actively involved in defusing the crises over Iran’s nuclear programme seems to point in that direction. What is awaited is the response by Iran, whose Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi is here and slated to speak on Sunday.
United States Vice-President Joe Biden had earlier set the ball rolling by stating that Washington was prepared to hold direct talks with Iran “when the Iranian leadership, the supreme leader, is serious.”
He acknowledged that similar offers had been made by the U.S. in the past and wanted Iran to hold talks that are real and tangible. “There has to be an agenda that they’re prepared to speak to. We’re not prepared to do it just for the exercise… there is still time, there is still space for diplomacy backed by pressure to succeed,” he said.
Mr. Biden was followed by German and Russian Foreign Ministers Guido Westerwelle and Sergei Lavrov, both of whom were firmly opposed to a military solution, and sought political and diplomatic rapprochement with Iran.
Mr. Westerwelle was “frank and outspoken”, confessing there had been no progress for the past one year and given Iran’s increasing capacity of enriching uranium, “it is obvious we have to use this year” for trying to resolve the issue. Iran’s nuclear programme was important not just for its security but had ramifications for regional security and the security architecture of the world. But it was “wrong” to discuss the military option and instead of focussing all efforts towards reach a political and diplomatic solution. “The kind of discussion you want to start is counterproductive,” he warned supporters of a robust response to Iran’s uranium enrichment project.
Mr. Lavrov said it was “absolutely inadmissible” to use military force, but supported a suggestion by the Gulf Cooperation Council for having a security conference that included Iran, regional actors, the European Union and other key countries.
“This conference would help the world move beyond military action. Iran has legitimate security concerns. It has been attacked a couple of times and it has never attacked anyone,” he pointed out, adding it would help Iran understand the world’s game plan and serve to convince it that the attempt by global players to curb its nuclear programme was not about regime change.