According to an announcement released by the European Union’s foreign policy chief and Iran’s foreign minister, Iran and six world powers have agreed on terms for negotiating an agreement to end the issues that have been brewing over Iran’s nuclear program. According to the agreed upon terms, early in March would be the next meeting between groups of experts while the full delegations would meet again on March 17. The current expectation is that the full delegations would meet monthly in the future.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said, “We had three very productive days during which we have identified all the issues we need to address to reach a comprehensive and final agreement. There is a lot to do. It won’t be easy, but we have made a good start.” After the announcement was made, the two delegation leaders declined to take questions at a closing news conference. The care that was taken on all sides to not say anything very specific was striking.
The atmosphere of the meeting was described as serious, workmanlike and conversational. The positive atmosphere described in the meetings themselves had no element of political rhetoric or posturing, even over “areas of difficulty,” according to an official with knowledge of the matter. It was clear that most of the work conducted during the current meeting was about setting an agenda and establishing the priority of the issues at stake in the matter.
Officials refused to describe what the topics would be for the expert meetings. However, a senior American official who was speaking on the condition of anonymity under the session’s ground rules said, “Every issue of concern to us is on the table.” The American official further stated, “All our concerns must be met to get an agreement.”
The American official defined Washington’s goals as aiming to ensure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon. These issues to be discussed are believed to include uranium enrichment, Iran’s heavy-water reactor project and its suspected nuclear military research and ballistic missile program. According to the official, all of these issues are at least mentioned in a joint plan of action agreed upon with Iran in Geneva in November. Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program has no military aspect or intent.