Washington, June 19 - Talks on Iran’s nuclear program ground to a halt Tuesday night in Moscow as no progress was made in resolving the issue.
“We came to make progress and respond to concrete actions by Iran,” lead negotiator and European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said in a press briefing after talks concluded Tuesday night. “It remains clear that there are significant gaps between the substance of the two positions,” she added, but insisted that the parties had “begun to tackle the critical issues.”
A flurry of conflicting news reports added to the confusion over what was agreed on late Tuesday night, but by 2:00pm Eastern Standard Time, it was clear no major progress was achieved and that a lower level follow-up technical meeting was scheduled for early July in Istanbul.
Ashton said that the P5+1- Russia, China, France, Germany, the U.K. and U.S- demanded that Iran stop enriching uranium to a 20 percent level, a key step in the process of creating nuclear weaponry. The bloc also asked that Iran ship out existing stockpiles of enriched uranium and close the shadowy Fordo complex where much of the suspected nuclear work is thought to occur.
Ashton said she would follow up about another high-level political meeting with Iran’s top nuclear envoy Saeed Jalili, but that no such summit was scheduled. She said that Iran had a major choice to make in proceeding.
“The choice is Iran’s,” Ashton said. “We expect Iran to decide whether it is willing to make diplomacy work, to focus on reaching an agreement on concrete, confidence-building steps, and to address the concerns of the international community.”
Iran continued its insistence that its right to enrich uranium be recognized and the sanctions lifted. A new round of sanctions that the EU has in place are planned to begin July 1.
The Moscow meeting came after the failures of three sessions of talks in Baghdad in May and an earlier round of negotiations in the Turkish city of Istanbul in mid-April.