Since months ago, resumption of negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 was discussed in the media. While everybody mentions the necessity of negotiations under present circumstances, the issue these days has become the place where they are going to take place. The following is an interview with Seyyed Mohammad Sadegh Kharrazi regarding this matter:
Iranian Diplomacy: Fifteen months ago, negotiations between Iran and the West concluded in Istanbul, Turkey, with no tangible results. Since then, no negotiations have taken place. Basically, what is the importance in the resumption of negotiations at this time?
Sadegh Kharrazi: I should first mention that the nuclear issue of Iran can only be solved through negotiations and there is no other solution to this matter. There are several reasons behind it but I will only mention two of them. First, we cannot find a solution for the sensitive and complicated nuclear issue through exerting pressure and force, hence, the policy of sanctions and use of military force will certainly not be a wise and sustainable solution. Second, we live in a world today where the mutual dependence of countries becomes clearer every day, and no country can build a wall around itself and pay no attention to the existing international atmosphere and propaganda launched against it. Therefore, negotiations should be a top priority for our country, especially under present circumstances when the enemies of the Iranian people are making great efforts to, through different means, exert political and economic pressure on our country.
IRD: During the past days, there have been many discussions regarding the venue of negotiations. How important is the place and what impact does it have on negotiations?
SK: In my opinion, the venue of negotiations, despite its importance, should not be the first priority for the two sides of the negotiations. The main issue of any negotiation is its agenda. If the agenda is not accurately written and a calm atmosphere is not created, holding it in the best possible place cannot guarantee its fruitfulness. Of course, it is obvious that both sides are willing to hold their talks in a neutral country. But the role of the host country is summarized in offering the meeting place and giving necessary services during the stay of the participants, and if requested by both parties, offering its good offices. There is no other role which the host country can play.
IRD: Some have suggested that these negotiations be held in countries that are friends of Iran like Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. How logical and possible do these three options seem?
SK: Both sides should agree on the venue of negotiations. If the countries that you mentioned are officially proposed by Iran and the other side agrees to one or more of them, there will be no problem. But, in my opinion, considering the present conditions of Syria, it seems impossible that the 5+1 would agree with this country hosting the talks. About the two other countries, we should wait and see what the final decision will be.
IRD: Why aren’t these negotiations held in Iran, like the Saad Abad negotiations held during Mr. Khatami’s presidency?
SK: I have not heard Iran mentioned as a proposed venue by either side. In my opinion, there should not be any problem with holding negotiations in Iran, as it has precedence. Although, existing realities in relations between Iran and some 5+1 countries make this case almost impossible.
IRD: Considering fundamental differences between Iran and the West, is there hope for fruitfulness in these negotiations? Has there been any change in the positions of the two sides in comparison with the Istanbul negotiations?
SK: The main problem of the Westerners is their lack of courage in expressing realities. They have even accepted that Iran has passed the threshold of nuclearization and Western experts have clearly mentioned this point. Now these countries either don’t have enough courage to declare this issue or political pressure and concerns prevent them from openly declaring it. This is the starting point for any approach to the nuclear issue of Iran. If, in this round of negotiations, the West accepts the reality of a nuclearized Iran, and on this basis does not mention its illogical requests such as suspension of enrichment, and on the other hand, if Iran seriously enters negotiations and shows the necessary and appropriate reaction to their suggestions, it can be hoped that this round of negotiations will bear fruit. Since the previous negotiations in Istanbul, I see a stronger degree of realism on both sides which gives hope for positive talks.
IRD: Turkey in recent years has played the role of mediator in talks between Iran and the West. Considering the escalation of tension between Tehran and Ankara during the past few days, will taking this role away from Turkey be harmful for Iran?
SK: Turkey is our neighboring country and the best relations must exist between Iran and Turkey. Of course, the two countries do not see eye to eye on all issues and this is quite natural. In my opinion, neither country should allow their differences regarding some issues to affect their mutual relations. Positions taken by Turkey with regard to Iran’s nuclear issue have been appropriate. Turkey and Brazil’s proposal-- offered two years ago-- concerning the fuel exchange which was harshly criticized by the West or recent statements made by Turkey’s prime minister about the non-military nature of Iran’s nuclear program after returning to his country indicates the neutral stance of this country towards Iran’s nuclear issue. Therefore, in my view, Turkey can still play a role in this matter.
IRD: Simultaneously with numerous opinions expressed in relation to Iran’s negotiations with the 5+1 group, Mr. El Baradei, the former director general of the IAEA, has said that the problems of Iran’s nuclear dossier will only be solved when Tehran and Washington agree to sit at the negotiation table. How valid is this statement? For example, it seems that changing six-party negotiations with North Korea to negotiations between North Korea and the US has led to greater achievements. Will changing Iran’s negotiations with the 5+1 to negotiations between Iran and the US be more fruitful?
SK: The nuclear issue of North Korea has major differences with Iran’s nuclear issue, the most important of which is that North Korea has conducted a nuclear weapons test, while Iran’s nuclear program is completely peaceful. Regarding the important role of the US in negotiations, which cannot be denied, I don’t agree that progress in nuclear negotiations depends on bilateral negotiations between Iran and the US. At present, neither of the two countries is ready for such action but I believe that both sides are willing to continue negotiations within the framework of the 5+1.