World powers said Wednesday after talks on Iran’s contested nuclear programme that they were ready to resume negotiations with Tehran “as soon as possible.”
The office of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said after talks between senior officials of the so-called P5+1 nations — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany — that the group was “committed to having another round of talks with Iran as soon as possible.”
The talks hosted by Ashton were the first on the issue since delays brought on by the US election that saw President Barack Obama returned to office.
“The meeting was part of the ongoing coordination effort to move the process forward to address the international community’s concerns about the Iranian nuclear programme,” the statement from Ashton’s office said.
It said that the six powers “remain united in their efforts to seek a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue” and that “necessary contact” with Tehran would be made “in the coming days.”
Political directors from the P5+1 group last met to discuss Iran’s nuclear programme in New York in September.
But the last high-level talks attended by Iran, which all but failed, were held in Moscow in June, with Tehran rejecting P5+1 calls for it to scale back its nuclear programme which the West suspect are a cover for efforts to build an atomic bomb.
A senior Western envoy this week told AFP that “we want to try to give Iran incentives to meet its obligations, but Iran will also have to take steps as well. We will see what they are willing to do.”
In high-level talks last May in Baghdad the P5+1 made an offer to Iran, calling on it to suspend some activities, close its most controversial nuclear facility and ship fissile material abroad.
Iran rejected the proposals in June when the six powers stopped short of offering swift and significant relief from sanctions that have started to hit the Iranian economy hard in recent months.
Ashton has been chairing talks with Tehran as part of the international community’s “twin-track” approach to ensure Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon — tightening the economic noose through increasingly severe sanctions in hopes of bringing Tehran to the negotiating table.
Israel, the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear weapons state, has refused to rule out a military strike on Iran to stop it from also getting the bomb.