Talks only way out of Ira­nian nuke stand­off


HOPES for a com­pre­hen­sive deal on the Ira­nian nu­clear is­sue by Mon­day were al­ready fad­ing, due to gaps on key as­pects among the re­lated par­ties. But ne­go­ti­a­tions, in­stead of threat of sanc­tions, still re­main the only way out of the stand­off.

Iran and six world pow­ers, namely Bri­tain, China, France, Ger­many, Rus­sia and the US be­gan their lat­est round of talks in the Aus­trian cap­i­tal of Vi­enna on Novem­ber 18. It was hoped that a com­pre­hen­sive deal could be reached by Mon­day that would en­sure the peace­ful na­ture of Tehran’s nu­clear pro­gram, while, in re­turn, Western states would phase out sanc­tions that have se­verely dam­aged the gulf na­tion’s oil-de­pen­dent econ­omy.

How­ever, di­ver­gence still re­mains on key is­sues such as the size and scope of Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram, par­tic­u­larly the num­ber of cen­trifuges Iran will be al­lowed to op­er­ate, and the in­cen­tives Iran will get in re­turn for its pos­si­ble con­ces­sions. While a com­pre­hen­sive deal failed to be reached on Mon­day, it was be­lieved that the talks would not com­pletely break down.

First, a break­down is not in the in­ter­ests of any party. A restart of the Ira­nian nu­clear pro­gram will cause re­gional in­sta­bil­ity, and pro­longed sanc­tions will worsen Iran’s econ­omy given the ever de­clin­ing oil prices.

Sec­ond, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and the Ira­nian gov­ern­ment led by mod­er­ate Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani have tried to im­prove re­la­tions in the past year. It was ex­pected that the nu­clear talks would re­sult in a “po­lit­i­cal agree­ment” on the Ira­nian nu­clear is­sue in­stead of a com­pre­hen­sive deal. In the past days, the US and Iran have been mak­ing joint ef­forts to reach such an agree­ment, which could fo­cus on the con­sen­sus reached in the talks while mak­ing com­mit­ments to solv­ing pend­ing is­sues in the fu­ture.

There were hopes that if such an agree­ment could be reached, the ef­forts of the con­cerned par­ties in the nu­clear talks would not be wasted, and the re­sult might be ac­cepted by the hawk­ish forces in the US and Iran. Such an agree­ment would also pave the way for the ex­ten­sion of the talks. Iran and Western pow­ers have made progress on some thorny is­sues through diplo­macy in the past year.

US chief nu­clear ne­go­tia­tor Wendy Sher­man, un­der sec­re­tary of state for po­lit­i­cal af­fairs, said in Oc­to­ber that “im­pres­sive progress” has been made dur­ing past talks on is­sues “that orig­i­nally seemed in­tractable,” de­spite the fact that dif­fer­ences over the size and scope of Iran’s ura­nium en­rich­ment ca­pac­ity kept draw­ing more at­ten­tion.

The lat­est me­dia re­ports show that the Geneva talks have been ex­tended again. As long as the talks con­tinue, it is hope­ful that the par­ties will find a way out. None of them are will­ing to take the con­se­quences of failed talks. It is highly ad­vis­able that all par­ties in the Ira­nian nu­clear talks ad­here to con­sen­sus, close the rifts and re­solve the key is­sues.

In this process, China can play a con­struc­tive role in the ne­go­ti­a­tions by pro­mot­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions among the re­lated par­ties, push for a com­pre­hen­sive deal at an early date, and make its due con­tri­bu­tions to safe­guard­ing peace and sta­bil­ity in the Mid­dle East.

—Cour­tesy: GT [The au­thor is a writer with the Xin­hua News Agency. opin­ion@glob­al­]

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