Iran and world powers agreed in talks here to hold a more in-depth meeting in Baghdad next month where, Western nations warned Tehran, much must be done to ease fears that it is seeking nuclear arms.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said there had been “constructive and useful” talks in Istanbul Saturday with Iranian chief negotiator Saeed Jalili but cautioned that the meeting in Iraq on May 23 must “take us forward in a very concrete way.”
Echoing her, the United States and other Western nations stressed the need for the next round of discussions to get to the core of the almost decade-old standoff over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
The Istanbul talks involved the so-called P5+1 grouping the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany and Iran, in the first such gathering for over a year, and after months of rising tensions.
The UN Security Council has imposed four rounds of sanctions on Iran due to suspicions that its avowed civilian nuclear programme is a cover for a secret atomic weapons drive, a charge Iran vigorously denies.
The international community’s main concern, particularly for Iran’s arch foe Israel, is Tehran’s growing capacity to enrich uranium, which can be used for peaceful purposes but, when purified further, for a nuclear weapon.
The White House hailed the “positive attitude” from Iran and world powers on Saturday but Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes reiterated Washington’s call for Tehran to take “concrete steps”.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague was also cautious, saying in a statement that the Istanbul talks “were a first step towards that objective, but there is still a long way to go.”
“We now need agreement on urgent, practical steps to build confidence around the world that Iran will implement its international obligations and does not intend to build a nuclear weapon,” he added.
France took a similar position.
“Iran has to make urgent and concrete gestures to establish confidence,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in a statement issued in Paris.
Jalili for his part praised the “desire of the other side for dialogue and cooperation. We consider that as a positive sign… For the Iranian people the language of threat and pressure doesn’t work.”
The last time Iran met with the P5+1 in Istanbul in January 2011, it quickly became apparent that the talks would go nowhere.