Iran Talks to Continue as Differences Remain Despite “Common Ground”

Two days of talks labeled as “very intense” did not lead to any breakthroughs in the Iranian nuclear dispute, but Tehran and the world powers did agree to follow-up meetings in mid-June in Moscow. Following the negotiations, an American official is set to visit Israel to discuss security issues. Israel has repeatedly expressed concern that the Iran talks not allow Tehran to secretly make progress toward nuclear weapons.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, in a statement released by the EU, said the past two days’ discussions with Iran showed some promise but more talking is needed.

“It is clear that we both want to make progress, and that there is some common ground,” said Ashton. “However, significant differences remain. Nonetheless, we do agree on the need for further discussion to expand that common ground.”

The P5+1—the US, the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany—are set to meet with Iran again June 18-19 in the Russian capital. One matter that apparently was agreed upon is that “the talks will be based on a step-by-step approach and reciprocity,” said Ashton. She said they called upon Iran to take steps, with offers of their own to come in response to Iranian cooperation.

Iran’s uranium enrichment to 20 percent, which while short of military grade nuclear fuel is heading in that direction, is one matter that Ashton specifically mentioned as being discussed, with Iran ready to address it. The 20 percent work has been a serious concern, as Iran’s enrichment of the nuclear fuel exceeds what it should need for medical research.

Ashton said they are committed to a diplomatic resolution to the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program, but they still have demands that Iran must meet to prove its program is peaceful. “We expect Iran to take concrete and practical steps to urgently meet the concerns of the international community, to build confidence and to meet its international obligations.”

Israel to be Consulted?

The US representative at the talks with Iran, Wendy Sherman, is set to visit Israeli senior officials on Friday. The original announcement of her travel plans had her visiting only Jordan, in addition to the Iran talks held in Baghdad.

While the State Department press statement did not say if Sherman would discuss the Iran talks with the Israelis, the implication was clear. The press release said she was going to Israel “for consultations on bilateral and regional issues with senior officials and to reaffirm our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, May 24, 2012)

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