A top U.S. diplomat will be present when Iran gives its formal response to a refreshed package of incentives offered by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany – the P-5 plus 1 -- regarding Iran’s nuclear program. U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns will join European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iran’s chief nuclear envoy, Saeed Jalili, along with other big power diplomats at a meeting in Geneva on July 19th.
High-level representatives from the United States and Iran have rarely sat down together since the two countries broke off diplomatic relations after followers of Iran’s revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held U.S. diplomats and other Americans hostage for more than a year.
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the U.S. willingness to join the delegation led by Mr. Solana sends a “strong signal.” It shows how seriously the U.S. takes the current P-5 + 1 proposal as an opportunity to solve the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomatic means. But, said Mr. McCormack, for the U.S. to participate in full blown negotiations with Iran, the Iranian government must comply with United Nations Security Council demands that it suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing-related activities:
“Should they take that single step, the United States and its partners in the P5 + 1 will meet with the Iranian delegation any time any where to talk about any variety of subjects, but certainly our focus will be on the Iranian nuclear program.”
The U.S. and its partners continue to follow a two-track strategy of incentives and disincentives to convince Iran to suspend its enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and create the right conditions for negotiations to begin. Under Secretary of State Burns’ presence at the upcoming meeting in Geneva is an attempt to highlight the stark and contrasting choices faced by the Iranian regime, said Mr. McCormack: if it suspends enrichment -- wide ranging negotiations, economic and trade benefits, assistance for civilian nuclear power; if it refuses to suspend -- continuing economic sanctions, financial restrictions, loss of international banking credit, and retreat by international businesses.
The ball is in Iran’s court, and the stakes are high, said Mr. McCormack – for the stability of the Middle East, for Iran, and for the Iranian people.