After two days of nonstop chatting with Iran about the country’s controversial nuclear program, the European Union’s top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, said she was disappointed with the talks. Iran reportedly refused to engage on any concrete proposals to build confidence that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — Russia, China, France, the United States, and Britain — and Germany came to the negotiating table with an updated proposal for a nuclear fuel swap (under which Iran would ship out most of its enriched uranium in return for nuclear fuel), but the talks didn’t get very far: The six countries Ashton represents refused to accept preconditions demanded by the Iranian delegation “regarding enrichment and sanctions,” because they were “not a way to proceed,” Ashton said.
After Ashton spoke, Iran’s lead negotiator, Saeed Jalili, took the same podium, pointing to the fact that countries like Israel wield nuclear arsenals but do not face sanctions from the U.N. Security Council. Jalili also drew attention to the murders of two Iranian nuclear scientists in Iran last year, asking why the Security Council had not addressed the matter.
Tehran now appears to be facing a united front from the P5+1, which includes Russia and China, two countries that have previously defended Iran’s right to nuclear technology. Both sides of the negotiations concluded their remarks insisting that they are still open to further discussions. Ashton said: “Our proposals remain on the table. Our door remains open. Our telephone lines remain open.” Our text message in-box is ready. Our e-mail addresses are available. Etc.! But no new talks are scheduled, and nobody’s expecting the phone to ring anytime soon.