Iran and the United States sent positive signals on Wednesday about the possibility of fresh talks on the Iranian nuclear program, which Washington suspects aims to develop atomic weapons.
Iran has given an assurance that it would stop enriching uranium to 20 percent purity if world powers agreed to a proposed nuclear fuel swap, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters in İstanbul.
The offer, conveyed to Davutoğlu on Sunday, could bode well for an expected resumption of talks in September between Iran and the major powers on the Islamic republic’s atomic program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes and not for bombs.
Asked about Davutoğlu’s comments, the US State Department said Iran had often sent mixed signals but that the United States was “fully prepared” to resume talks among the six major powers and Tehran about Iran’s nuclear program. Iran last met the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia in Geneva in October, when they discussed Iran sending some low-enriched uranium abroad in exchange for fuel for a Tehran reactor that makes medical isotopes.
“We hope to have the same kind of meeting coming up in the coming weeks that we had last October,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters. “We are interested in a process -- more than one meeting.”
Turkey and Brazil brokered a deal in May for a nuclear fuel swap in Tehran, hoping that this would draw Iran and the major powers back to the negotiating table, but the six powers were lukewarm about the plan. At the time, Iran said it would continue enriching uranium to 20 percent.
Davutoğlu, who met with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim on Sunday, said Iran was ready to lay to rest concern over its enrichment program if the proposed nuclear fuel swap went ahead.
“Another important message given by Mottaki during his visit to Turkey was that if the Tehran deal is signed and Iran is provided with the necessary fuel for its research activities, then they will not continue enriching uranium to 20 percent,” Davutoğlu told a joint news conference with visiting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
Iran sent a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Monday, saying it was ready to negotiate the details of exchanging 1,200 kilograms of its 3 percent enriched uranium for 120 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium.
Davutoğlu urged that talks on this subject with the so-called Vienna Group begin as soon as possible.
“The disagreements should be left aside and negotiations between the Vienna Group and Iran should be started right away,” he said. Davutoğlu said Iran had also confirmed that EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Iran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, could meet in early September, after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan