Geneva talks fail to break standoff on Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran unclear on concessions

Two days of talks in Geneva between Iran, the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany ended Wednesday, Oct. 16, with little more than a decision, confirmed only by Tehran, to reconvene in the coming weeks for another attempt to break the standoff on Iran’s nuclear program.

Those governments will meanwhile evaluate whether it is possible to bridge the gaps between Iran’s proposals and the American position. Those gaps were so wide that the forum in Geneva suspended its multinational discussion after the first day and the delegations broke up into two camps Wednesday for bilateral meetings on the sidelines. The Western delegates conferred with each other, while the Iranians put their heads together with the Russian and Chinese delegates.

Although Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and his deputy Abbas Araghchi pumped out a stream of upbeat comments about the “positive” response to their proposals, their Western audience saw nothing more than partial frameworks lacking concrete details. The Iranian delegates were believed to be inhibited by uncertainty about how their performance at Geneva would be received by Supreme leaer Ali Khamenei and other Iranian radicals. He too is under radical pressure at home to put a stop to bridge-building with America and the West.
debkafile reports from Western sources close to the Geneva talks that Iran signaled willingness to consider seven partial concessions as “the last step” in a process – indicating that sanctions relief must come first:

1. Iran refuses to renounce uranium enrichment altogether under any circumstances.
2. A certain amount of enriched material might be given up within a given period of time.

3. Enrichment will be pegged to a low level – probably 5 percent.
4. Enrichment to 20 percent purity (close to weapons grade) would be partially scaled down, but enough medium-refined uranium would be retained for the production of isotopes for medicine and research. This section was not clearly phrased.
5.  After long hedging, Tehran would give IAEA inspectors access to the military facility at Parchin where Western and Israeli intelligence reported that nuclear explosions were tested.
6.  Tehran is prepared to address calls to sign the Additional Clause of the Non-Proliferation Treaty which allows more intrusive and unannounced UN nuclear watchdog inspections. However, the inspectors will not receive access to facilities that have not been declared nuclear sites.
Abbas Araghchi made it clear that this like all other concessions would depend on the lifting of sanctions.
7.  Tehran will promise not to construct a plutonium separation reactor at Arak. The plan to stockpile plutonium as an alternative to enriched uranium for fueling a nuclear weapon appears to have been set aside for now, but not the reactor itself.

The Geneva conference ended with all the main issues up in the air or too vague to be pinned down. The forum will most probably meet again as some future date.  This outcome has exacerbated the skepticism in Washington and Tehran about the prospects of further diplomacy achieving any real progress toward a deal for curtailing Iran’s nuclear weapons program. 

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