Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Has The Time Come For The Iranian Initiative?

By Abdullah Iskandar
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 8/12/2010

The meetings held these last two days in Geneva between Iran and the P5+1 did not lead to any progress at the level of the content of the negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear file. None of the sides may have wagered on seeing this round reach some sort of breakthrough, since both considered that it aimed at reestablishing contact after a halt which lasted 14 months. In that sense, the current round was perceived as being an accomplishment along the course of the attempts to reach a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis.

This round also secured another accomplishment represented by the agreement to hold another round in Istanbul at the end of the month. This means that for the time being, both sides are holding on to this form of talks, and that the P5+1 made a concession to Iran by approving the meeting in Istanbul, i.e. the location which was previously requested by Tehran for the staging of the round seen during the last two days.

Although Turkey will not be a party in the negotiations and will not play a direct role in them, the mere acceptance of Istanbul’s hosting of the next round by the P5+1 conveys a positive gesture toward Iran and gives it reassurances regarding the openness toward some of its demands, especially in regard to the Turkish role in transporting or storing nuclear fuel following the refusal to deal with the Turkish-Brazilian initiative related to the enrichment activities.

In this context, the “cooperation and search for common points” formula represents the target of the next round after “constructive” talks during the Geneva round. It aims at confirming this openness by the P5+1group (the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany) and the European Union toward Tehran’s concerns, in the hope of getting it to undertake a similar step that would secure progress at the level of the core of the negotiations.

In other words, the international community represented by the P5+1 and the European Union, conveyed good intentions toward the Iranian concerns by keeping the basket of incentives on the table, despite Iran’s continuation of its enrichment activities. It also made a trust-building step by accepting to head to Istanbul for the next round, with all that this means in terms of the willingness to take Iran’s requests into consideration.

In parallel to the Geneva talks, Iran’s neighboring states that are the most affected by the repercussions of the nuclear file crisis, i.e. the GCC countries, were holding their yearly summit in Abu Dhabi. During this summit, they stressed the necessity of engaging in dialogue, of reaching a peaceful solution to the Iranian file and committing to international legitimacy at this level. They utterly rejected the military option in handling this crisis, corroborating the right to acquire nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and the nuclear disarmament of the region, including that of Israel. Moreover, the Gulf countries showed openness toward all forms of cooperation with Iran to ensure security and stability in the region.

It seems, in light of the intervention of Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki during the Manama conference a few days ago and the position of the Gulf summit toward the Iranian nuclear crisis, that both sides are trying to overcome what was featured in the documents carried by the Wikileaks website in this regard. This sets the foundation for the reinstatement of a trust which may have been shaken in the past, not only due to the nuclear file but also to the overall Iranian behavior at the level of the crises in the region – especially in Iraq and Yemen – and their repercussions on the Gulf States.

Hence, the international community and the Iran neighboring states appear to be seeking a peaceful solution to the nuclear file crisis, and willing to undertake positive steps to improve the conditions of any serious negotiations.

However, for its part, Iran must meet the others halfway to avoid the slip that is feared by all in the absence of a peaceful solution. Therefore, the time may have come for Tehran to adopt such a step through measures and policies that would reassure the international community and the neighboring states alike.

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