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Friday, October 29, 2010
An Iran Breakthrough Can Bolster Peace Talks
By Jamil K. Mroue Publisher and editor in chief of Daily Star This Editorial was published in Daily Star on Saturday, 30/10/2010
Iran’s affirmative response to the European Union’s proposal to resume talks over the Islamic Republic’s disputed nuclear program represents one of the few positive developments in the darkening landscape of Middle East politics.
While we thoroughly welcome Iran’s willingness to return to the negotiating table on November 10, our enthusiasm is tempered by the awareness that this sit-down will also offer one of the last opportunities to resolve the nuclear dispute through diplomatic means. As the Islamic Republic’s stockpile of enriched uranium grows, so will chatter in Israel, the US and elsewhere about a military solution to the crisis.
Even though Iran and Western powers are still haggling over the date to renew the bargaining and the locale of the talks, at least the situation in Iraq – a far more important factor in the standoff between Iran and the US than any logistical concerns – has calmed sufficiently that it will no longer present another high hurdle for the sides to overcome at the table.
More than conditions in Iraq, however, the chances for the success of this coming round of diplomacy will depend on the sincerity of the commitment of both sides to achieve a negotiated end to the controversy over Iran’s nuclear program.
Even though a new round of UN Security Council sanctions – and especially tougher economic sanctions imposed by the US and many EU member states – appear to be squeezing the Islamic Republic, the P5 +1 powers should not insist on new and greater demands on Iran which they know Tehran cannot accept; Iran has already demonstrated its willingness to export much of its stock of low-enriched uranium in an earlier deal with Turkey and Brazil. For its part, Tehran must not use the talks simply as a ploy to buy more time as it enriches more uranium and brings more centrifuges online, in the belief that doing so will enhance its negotiating position later.
If the two sides can make progress in the talks, that could well serve as the catalyst for more progress in other regional crises where these actors are playing a role; for example, both sides have room to take steps in Yemen to calm the still-smoldering civil strife there. In Sudan, meanwhile, progress over Iran’s nuclear program could be the impetus to avoid the January referendum in south Sudan from degenerating into an excuse for more turmoil there.
Most significantly, however, any movement in those negotiations should be parlayed into a push for a breakthrough in the languishing Palestinian-Israeli direct talks; let us hope that the charade of the so-called peace process will not be the template for Iran and the Western powers.