Iran negotiator: level of enrichment negotiable, but not principle

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Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Aragchi, who is part of Iran’s negotiation team, said today that “The principle of enrichment is non-negotiable, but the specifics, which include level, place and amount, are negotiable.”

Speaking to an Iranian Students’ News Agency reporter in Geneva, Aragchi continued, “The right to enrichment certainly exists, but to negotiate confidence building about the method of implementing [enrichment] can be discussed.”

He called enrichment “one of the most difficult, important and sensitive parts” of the negotiations, adding, “What is certain is that any agreement where enrichment is not at the beginning and end, we will not enter, and at all of the steps, enrichment is to be there.”

Araghchi also said, “Lifting the banking and oil sanctions have to be part of the first steps of the opposing sides.”

According to Asr-e Iran, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a Russian news agency that the differences between Iran and the West can be solved if Iran’s right to enrichment is recognized. On Nov. 12, after the second round of negotiations broke off without an agreement due to what appeared to be France’s tough stance, Al-Monitor‘s Hooshang Amirahmadi wrote that the talks may have been stalled on Iran’s right to enrich uranium on its own soil.

Aragchi also stressed that the lack of confidence has been an impediment to talks.

“In these negotiations, about how to work was discussed,” Aragchi said. “The prime obstacle in the work is the lack of confidence about how to continue the negotiations, because of the issues that were created from the previous negotiations. We believe that until this trust is re-built, we will not be able to have constructive talks.”

On the previous negotiations, Araghchi said, “We had reached a conclusion in the previous talks, but the actions of the opposing side caused there to be obstacles. I am hopeful that the Iranian delegation, after the first meeting with Ms. Ashton, for there to be a result of whether we will enter talks on the specifics or no.” Aragchi added, “Of course, many of the previous matters that we had reached an agreement [on] are still strong, but the issues of differences still exist.” It has been reported that since the interview, the first meeting has been concluded.

Araghchi said that the way to build trust was “to face one position from the six countries, and the previous time, this position did not exist.”

On a final agreement, Araghchi said, “We are facing various texts, just as were presented in the last moments of [the last round]. We have not yet decided on what texts, and how to negotiate. We have not yet entered this phase because we do not have confidence that their method of negotiation is sound and can end in results.”

On whether this round will end the negotiations, Araghchi said, “We do not think that the negotiations will end, and on this, we do not feel a threat. What happened in the previous round is that doubts arose about the intentions of the opposing side and until we eliminate that, we will not enter serious negotiations, and we are hopeful that we can re-build trust and enter the contents of negotiations.”