Iran's FM says nuclear talks will be held in Turkey

Iran's foreign minister announced on Sunday that the next round of talks between »»

Iran's foreign minister announced on Sunday that the next round of talks between Iran and six world powers on the country's nuclear program will be held in İstanbul.

Ali Akbar Salehi made the comments during a press conference in Tehran. He did not give any timeframe for the talks.

The last round of talks between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany were held in İstanbul in January 2011 but ended in failure. The West wants Iran to meet UN Security Council demands to stop uranium enrichment but Tehran accuses the other side of pushing not "dialogue but dictation."

The statement comes after the US and EU expressed cautious optimism on Friday that Iran is serious about returning to talks with world powers over its nuclear program.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said they are continuing to study Iran's response to a proposal to restart the stalled negotiations. However, they said they welcomed Iran's professed willingness to hold talks as soon as possible without prerequisites.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with Ashton at the State Department, Clinton said the Iranian reply was "one we have been waiting for." However, she stressed that "if we do proceed it will have to be a sustained effort that will produce results."

"We must be assured that if we make a decision to go forward, we see a sustained effort by Iran to come to the table to work until we have reached an outcome that has Iran coming back into compliance with their international obligations," Clinton said. "We're evaluating all of these factors. But I think it's fair to say … that we think this is an important step and we welcome the letter."

Clinton was referring to a letter from chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, which was sent to Ashton on Tuesday, in which he proposed new discussions. Ashton is the point of contact for the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, who are demanding that Iran freeze all uranium enrichment.

Ashton said she was cautious but optimistic that talks could resume.

"I think it is good to see that the letter has arrived and there is a potential possibility that Iran may be willing to resume talks," she said.

Jalili wrote in the letter: "We voice our readiness for dialogue on a spectrum of various issues which can provide ground for constructive and forward looking cooperation."

Ashton had written Jalili in October, offering Iran a new round of talks toward an agreement that "restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program." The West fears Iran seeks nuclear weapons, and speculation is rife that Israel may launch a pre-emptive strike to set back the program.

Jalili welcomed Ashton's statement of respect for Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy use and said that "by committing to this approach, our talks for cooperation based on step-by-step principles and reciprocity on Iran's nuclear issue could be commenced," according to a translated copy of the letter.

Also on Friday, the White House announced that national security advisor Tom Donilon will travel to Israel this weekend for discussions on Iran, Syria and other security issues. The US and EU have been arguing in talks with Israel that the costs of a hit to Iranian nuclear sites outweigh the benefits.

2012-02-19

Diplomacy