GENEVA: With PowerPoint slides and feel-good phrases, Iranian negotiators presented world powers on Tuesday with what they said was a plan to break a decade of deadlock over Tehran’s nuclear program, declaring the time had come to end the country’s “walk in the dark” of international isolation and crippling sanctions.
Neither Iran nor the six nations negotiating with it revealed details of the proposal. But their guarded comments indicated some progress had been made and a rare private meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi and the chief U.S. negotiator, Wendy Sherman, suggested a better tone compared to previous encounters.
Speaking in English, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif outlined the proposal, titled “An End to the Unnecessary Crisis and a Beginning for Fresh Horizons.”
A member of one of the delegations meeting with Iran told the Associated Press the plan offered reductions in both the levels of uranium enrichment being conducted by Iran and the number of centrifuges doing the enrichment — a key demand of the six powers. He demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to divulge details.
Iran’s state TV, which closely reflects government views, said Tehran offered to discuss uranium enrichment levels. The report also said Iran proposed adopting the additional protocols of the U.N.’s nuclear treaty — effectively opening its nuclear facilities to wider inspection and monitoring — if the West recognizes Iran’s right to enrich uranium.
The Iranian presentation was followed in the afternoon by what European Union spokesman Michael Mann said were very detailed technical talks “for the first time.” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki repeated the same phrase, saying that while it wasn’t “a breakthrough at this stage … it certainly is positive that there was enough information to have technical discussions.”
“They’ve come forward with something this morning, but we need to work harder on it to get down to the nitty gritty,” Mann told reporters. Both he and Psaki said the talks would continue today.
Araghchi was also upbeat, describing the afternoon session as “positive and constructive,” on the website of Iranian state television. He said the six powers — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — asked for details and discussed explanations offered by Iranian negotiators.
Iran’s version of success is for painful international sanctions to be lifted in exchange for possible concessions it had been previously unwilling to consider, such as increased monitoring and scaling back of uranium enrichment — a potential path to nuclear arms.
International talks have been stalled for years. But negotiations now appear to be revived since reformist President Hassan Rouhani took office in September.