World powers will hold a fresh round of nuclear talks with Iran in Istanbul on Saturday, a spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.
“We have agreed to launch talks in Istanbul on April 14,” Michael Mann said on Monday. “We hope that this first round will produce a conducive environment for concrete progress.
“We are of course aiming at a sustained process,” Mann added.
Iran last held talks with the so-called P5+1 powers — permanent UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany — in January 2011 with no results.
There had been a dispute as to whether the venue for the fresh talks should be Istanbul or Baghdad.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had already announced that the talks between Tehran and the group of six powers would resume April 13-14 in Istanbul.
However Tehran had then objected to the venue, arguing that Turkey’s tough line against Damascus in recent months did not make it a neutral host, and suggested Baghdad instead.
Iran did not specifically react to the dispute over the venue Monday but its foreign minister said he hoped all sides would come to the negotiating table without pre-conditions and make the fresh talks succeed.
“We hope the P5+1 will come to the negotiating table with honesty, and we also will make an honest effort so that both sides reach a win-win conclusion,” Ali Akbar Salehi told the Iranian parliament’s website.
Both sides have sent positive signals ahead of the fresk talks, with Iran hinting it had a new offer to put on the table and reports that Washington could accept a civilian nuclear programme if Tehran could prove it was not seeking the atomic weapon.
Egged on by Israel, its chief ally in the Middle East, Washington had ratcheted up the rhetoric against the Islamic state in recent months, sparking fears of a military flare-up.
Observers hope the fresh round of talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany will help defuse the risk of further escalation.
Oil prices slid in Asian trade on Monday with New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in May, shedding $1.11 to $102.20 per barrel.