Iran Forecast, Nov 22: Can Trust Be Re-Built in Geneva Nuclear Talks?

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ALSO IN FRIDAY FORECAST

US Secretary of State Kerry Going to Geneva
Diplomats Says Iran & 5+1 Powers Closer to Nuclear Deal
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov En Route to Geneva
Iranian Delegation Says Zarif-Ashton Meeting “Positive”

The second day of nuclear talks in Geneva between Iran and the 5+1 Powers offered little detail on substance, as journalists were reduced to watching diplomats shuffle in and out of meetings and trying to read the signals in general statements and body language.

Of the statements, the most telling were from the Iranian delegation, who were relatively downbeat compared to their declaration of a “positive” mood on Wednesday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi indicated disappointment that, after Geneva’s talks almost produced an interim deal two weeks ago, there was not even a draft text to discuss on Thursday. Instead, he said efforts were being expended to re-build trust and confidence, eroded after the late failure to get the interim agreement in the last round.

Araqchi was careful not to put specific blame on France, who objected to construction of the Arak heavy-water reactor and public recognition of Tehran’s right to enrich. Instead, he spoke of “mis-commuhication”.

Araqchi hinted that, while Iran was still ready to suspend its enrichment of 20% uranium, the Islamic Republic would never concede its right to a nuclear program with enrichment to the lower level of 5%: “The principle of enrichment is not negotiable but we can discuss volumes, levels, and locations.”

A “senior US official” said, “This is difficult. This is tough. There is a lot at stake for every country in the room.”

The official was confident that the recognition of Iran’s right to enrich “can be navigated in an agreement”.

However, differences over sanctions relief also could be arising.

Araqchi said, “The [removal of] oil and banking sanctions will be part of the negotiations and measures of the other side in the first step.” The US official pointed only to limited easing of restrictions petrochemical and precious metals, and access to some frozen cash reserves abroad.

“The sanctions relief that is being contemplated – if we get an agreement – is quite small and does not undermine in any way the core architecture of our oil, banking and financial sanctions, which have to remain in place until we get a comprehensive agreement,” the official said.

This morning’s meetings start with a bilateral between the lead negotiator for the 5+1 Powers, the European Union’s Catherine Ashton, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.


US Secretary of State Kerry Going to Geneva

Is this the sign of an advance towards an interim nuclear deal on Saturday?

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki:

Diplomats Says Iran & 5+1 Powers Closer to Nuclear Deal

Diplomatic sources in Geneva say Friday’s nuclear talks have reduced the number of points being debated.

The sources said the most important remaining obstacle was the extent to which work should be allowed to continue at the Arak heavy-water nuclear reactor,

Unconfirmed reports claimed that the question of recognition of Iran’s right to enrich uranium has been resolved with words in the draft agreement that satisfy both sides.

“Yesterday we talked about the issues we don’t agree on, and naturally delegations needed to consult their capitals. In some cases, we have had results,” Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif said.

He continued, “In some cases a number of phrases have been added [to the text] and we still need to do some work in other cases. We are dealing with an issue that was the subject of difference for 10 years.”

A sign of the progress in the shift in mood of lead Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi, who was downbeat at the start of the day:

Julian Borger of The Guardian adds:

And Iranian journalist Sadegh Ghorbani notes:

Smiles all around after an earlier meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif:

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov En Route to Geneva

Russia’s Foreign Ministry says Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is flying to Geneva to join the nuclear talks.

The Ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that Lavrov may also meet in Geneva with the United Nations envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Iranian Delegation Says Zarif-Ashton Meeting “Positive”

Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht-e Ravanchi, a member of Iran’s negotiating team, is upbeat about this morning’s meeting between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the lead negotiator for the 5+1 Powers, the European Union’s Catherine Ashton:

Ravanchi said talks may continue on Saturday but that he was not aware of any possible attendance of Foreign Ministers from the 5+1 Powers.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Across the Zagros: Iranian influence in Iraqi Kurdistan
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/21/iran-influence-iraqi-kurdistan

    “The relationship between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan is… more evenly balanced than might be expected, even surprisingly so. After all, Iran is a powerful country of 80 million people that operates a globally infamous nuclear programme, while Iraqi Kurdistan is but a region of Iran’s smaller, western neighbour. But there are opportunities on both sides. Trade is blossoming, and Iranian cultural influence in the area is centuries old. Iran has fostered good relations with the KDP and the PUK, both of which are increasingly striving to hedge Iraqi Kurdistan’s economic growth with inbound investment from a basket of neighbouring countries. Politically, Iran has achieved a government in Baghdad with ties to Tehran through its negotiations with the Iraqi Kurds, in return for which the Kurds have held onto the presidency of Iraq.”

  2. U.S. Middle East Strategy: Back to Balancing
    http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/11/21/us_middle_east_strategy_back_to_balancing

    “Given U.S. interests, the country would be much better off with a more nuanced and flexible approach. To be blunt: The United States is too close to its current allies and too hostile to some of its adversaries. That is not an argument for abandoning current allies and launching a complete diplomatic reversal (though some analysts have argued cogently along these lines), but it is an argument for a less polarized, black-and-white approach. To be specific: The United States should have normal relations with Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia instead of “special relationships.” This would be better for the United States and probably better for those countries too. The United States should also have a somewhat more normal relationship with Iran: not friendship, perhaps, but one where the two governments cooperate on matters of common concern (such as Afghanistan) and bargain rationally and rigorously on matters where the two countries differ. (This approach would also take advantage of the desire for contact with America and the outside world that is widespread in Iranian society, especially among the younger population, and make it harder for the clerical regime to thwart reform by blaming its problems in the “Great Satan.”)”

  3. Embassy bombers stayed at luxury Beirut hotel: Saqr
    http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2013/Nov-21/238535-embassy-bombers-used-fake-lebanese-ids-report.ashx#axzz2lMwkFBEo

    “Two suicide bombers, who attacked the Iranian Embassy in Lebanon earlier this week killing at least 25 people, stayed at a luxury Beirut hotel, Militay Prosecutor Saqr Saqr said Thursday.

    Saqr told The Daily Star the killers, who spoke Arabic, stayed at the Sheraton Four Points hotel in the Beirut area near UNESCO.

    He said security camera videos submitted by the hotel were also being examined.

    Security sources told The Daily Star that a Palestinian national was among the two suicide bombers, adding that investigators were still trying to identify the second bomber.

    Saqr said fingerprints taken from the hotel room were being analyzed, describing this measure as “the most significant step.”

    Conflicting reports in the local media claimed the killers had stayed for one night at the hotel, while others said they stayed for four days.

    “We confiscated two Lebanese identity cards, but they were forged,” Saqr said, adding that Lebanese Army intelligence had searched the bombers’ hotel room and seized other items.”

  4. Website documenting and discussing worldwide cases of censorship and the repression of artistic freedom

    The website http://artsfreedom.org/ was initially created solely for the World Conference but thanks to grants from Fritt Ord and the Danish Center for Culture and Development they have been able to continue developing the content. The website continues to be the only in the world fully dedicated to documenting and discussing worldwide cases of censorship and the repression of artistic freedom.

    There are already hundreds of articles and video interviews with artists on the site – quite a number from Iran; their stories clearly demonstrate that artistic expression continues to be under attack because besides entertaining, their work can and does “contribute to social debates, sometimes bringing counter-discourses and potential counterweights to existing power centres,” as Ms Farida Shaheed, United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, expressed it in her recent report to the UN.

    Check it out: http://artsfreedom.org/

  5. Iranian activist criticises French stance in nuclear talks
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/iran-blog/2013/nov/21/iranian-activist-france-nuclear-talks

    “One of Iran’s most respected activists, Emadeddin Baghi, has criticised France’s stance in nuclear talks in Geneva. In a letter addressed to France’s president, François Hollande, Baghi said France’s tough position played into the hands of hardliners in Iran and undermined the work of human rights campaigners who were hurt by international sanctions.

    “I write to express my surprise and dismay at your government’s recent position at the talks between the P5+1 and Iran,” he wrote in the letter published by the citizen journalism website Iranwire. “In my capacity as a human rights activist I would like to urge you to reconsider your government’s decision to prevent the initiation of a first step in the world’s process of building confidence in the peacefulness of Iran’s nuclear programme and the eventual ending of economic, technical, and scientific sanctions against Iran.””

  6. Iran’s state TV tries ‘soft power’ to win hearts and minds
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/22/iran-state-tv-versus

    “People want good television. In the spring of 2010, a specially convened committee of Iranian MPs, clerics and media experts reached this conclusion after investigating the “covert aims” of Persian-language satellite programs beamed into the country from abroad. Noting the voraciousness with which local viewers consumed these “culturally subversive” shows, the experts turned their attention to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).

    They realised that the gargantuan media organisation, charged with transmitting the values of the Islamic Republic to audiences both at home and overseas, was producing such drab content that Iranians had “no choice but to watch satellite.” They also worried that, unless IRIB found a way to reel in viewers, the spreading use of new satellite hardware would render the police practice of seizing dishes from apartment building rooftops – long the preferred policy for dealing with the illegal broadcasts that challenge IRIB’s domestic monopoly – increasingly ineffective.

    Three years later, it appears IRIB has been working hard to address these deficiencies. Despite the country’s dire economic problems, the sprawling state-run organisation, known locally as “Seda va Sima” (Sound and Vision) has expended vast financial resources to booster TV technology, content quality and reach. While there’s no evidence of an official strategical change, IRIB’s notoriously stiff and propagandistic style of entertainment has grown noticeably softer.”

  7. According Laura Rozen #Russia FM Lavrov and the #China Vice FM have arrived in Geneva.
    US remains hopeful of reaching Phase 1 agreement (whatever that is).

  8. Climatic change

    Laura Rozen at geneva:
    “Today has something of the feel of lawyers going back and forth to close a contract.”

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