After a break of 15 months, discussions on Iran's nuclear program resumed Saturday in Istanbul in an atmosphere described as "constructive", it was learned from diplomatic sources. The participants, the Islamic Republic on one side and P5 +1 on the other, do not expect significant progress on the merits. The aim is rather to reboot a "sustainable process".
The first plenary session in the morning, took place in a "constructive atmosphere", reported the spokesman for Catherine Ashton, the EU representative who coordinates the six powers involved in the search for a solution to the crisis (China, USA, France, Britain, Russia plus Germany).
"We felt they really wanted a positive dialogue," said Michael Mann.
Sentiment shared by Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Ryabkov, the head of the Russian delegation who quoted by Interfax news agency as saying: "The atmosphere is constructive, the conversation is frank and direct. For now, things are going well," he said.
Representatives of Western countries hope to see Tehran's signal about its willingness to engage in substantive negotiations. This would mark an already advanced stage because the Iranians refused during the discussions in January 2011 to mention the nuclear issue.
Such a result could pave the way for a second round of talks next month, perhaps in Baghdad, and new negotiations to resolve a decade-old dispute which set aside the specter of military intervention against the nuclear installations of Iran.
At the end of the morning session, a diplomat told that the atmosphere of the talks was "totally different" from previous meetings. The chief Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, made no prerequisites for the resumption of dialogue. "It seems thwy have come with the goal of committing a serious process," said the diplomat under a condition of anonymity. "I would say it was a good morning work."
A second session was held in the afternoon.
On Friday, a working dinner was held in Istanbul between Ashton and Saeed Jalili. Their dinner lasted three hours and took place, according to a diplomat, in a "friendly atmosphere". But the discussions, he added, have not focused on the nuclear issue.
"This is why we are here. To find ways in which we can build trust between us this means we can see that Iran is moving away from a nuclear weapons program", Catherine Ashton said in a statement.
Jalili used this dinner to tell his interlocutor that he hoped the superpowers would gain "the confidence of the Iranian nation".