VIENNA: World powers and Iran geared up on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) for fresh nuclear negotiations, with Russian President Vladimir Putin telling Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani he was upbeat about prospects for an accord, even though the United States (US) downplayed hopes of an imminent deal.
Speaking by phone two days before the talks resume on Wednesday in Geneva, Putin “stressed that a real chance has now emerged for finding a solution to this longstanding problem,” the Kremlin said.
The comments came a day after French President Francois Hollande laid out in Israel the “essential” steps that Tehran must agree with the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany, known collectively as the P5+1 group.
These steps include halting enrichment of uranium to 20-percent purity, reducing enriched uranium stockpiles, and stopping construction of a new reactor at Arak, which could produce plutonium.
But Hollande stressed in Jerusalem on Monday that, “we will maintain the sanctions as long as we are not certain that Iran has definitively renounced its military [nuclear]program.”
And it remains to be seen whether the small and reversible sanctions relief that the P5+1 is offering in return will be enough to persuade Tehran to play ball.
After US officials last week said a deal was “quite possible,” US Secretary of State John Kerry was more cautious on Monday saying: “I have no specific expectations with respect to the negotiations in Geneva, except that we will continue to negotiate in good faith.”
“We will try to get a first step agreement and hope that Iran will understand the importance of coming there prepared to create a document that can prove to the world that this is a peaceful program,” Kerry said.
Israel and the West have long accused Iran of seeking a nuclear weapons capability, but Tehran insists its controversial uranium enrichment program is for entirely peaceful purposes.
Years of US and European Union sanctions have more than halved Iran’s oil sales, sent the currency plummeting and inflation soaring.