by Jasmin Ramsey
Geneva — On the eve of their resumed negotiations, Iran and the 6-world power P5+1 have set a tone differing from that sounded in talks before Iran’s June presidential election.
“I am not pessimistic about this round of talks,” Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told the Iranian press upon arriving in Geneva Monday evening, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.
“This meeting in Geneva is an opportunity to examine Western seriousness in these negotiations,” said the head of the Iranian delegation.
Meanwhile, a senior U.S. official told reporters here today that while the P5+1 was “encouraged” and “hopeful” after the “change in tone” expressed by the Iranian delegation in New York during last month’s UN General Assembly (UNGA), adding that it needs to be “tested with verifiable, concrete actions.”
Though President Obama announced last month that Secretary of State of John Kerry will now be directly involved in the negotiation process, Kerry was not scheduled to appear alongside his Iranian counterpart during this session.
“It’s appropriate for the foreign ministers to come together when it makes sense,” said the US official.
“We’ve passed the bilateral Rubicon,” the official added, referring to the historic 30-minute private dinner meeting between Kerry and Zarif on the sidelines of the UNGA last month.
While Kerry was flying back home to Washington from London this evening, Zarif met privately with EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton at the residence of Iran’s envoy in Geneva.
On Tuesday morning, Zarif is scheduled to present Iran’s new 3-step proposal to the P5+1 (the U.S., Britain, France, China, and Russia plus Germany), after which point the Iranian team will be led by Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.
“I think some people had hoped they would have given me a proposal in advance…but that has not occurred and we expect they will give us a detailed proposal of what they have in mind tomorrow, but how detailed, I don’t know,” said the senior administration official. “We are open to Iran’s ideas about how to proceed forward.”
“Until today, the nuclear talks were a lose-lose, and we should change the game to a win-win,” said Zarif today while reasserting the restricted timeline the Iranians seem to be operating on, according to the Iranian Student News Agency.
“I think it is possible to take preliminary steps — in six months to one year, we can change Iran’s nuclear file to a normal case in the [International Atomic Energy Agency] IAEA,” he said.
The senior administration official also told reporters that though the last proposal presented by the P5+1 in Almaty earlier this year — which the official described as “balanced and reasonable” — was still on the table, the U.S. delegation was open to Iran’s new plan.
But if the Iranians “want more, they should give more,” said the official.
While Iran has continued to stress that its nuclear program is purely for peaceful purposes, it is also set on getting relief from the rounds of sanctions that have been imposed on it over the years, especially those affecting its banking sector.
When asked what Iran “needs” from the US, Zarif told ABC News last week that dismantling “of illegal sanctions against Iran that are targeting ordinary Iranians” was a top priority.
“It’s important to make clear that any sanctions relief…be targeted proportionally to what Iran puts on the table,” said the senior administration official today.
“I’m sure they will disagree about what is proportionate, but we are quite clear about the what the menu of options are and what will match what,” said the official.
Photo: Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrives in Geneva, Switzerland for talks scheduled with the P5+1 for Oct. 15-16. Credit: Sina Shiri/Fars News