After last two days of talks in Moscow, Iran and the major powers have failed to bridge their differences on Tehran's nuclear program. "We presented our positions in exchanges that were detailed, tough and honest. After five plenary sessions and bilateral meetings, we began to address the critical issues, "said the chief EU diplomat, Catherine Ashton, during a press conference.
"However, it is clear that there are significant differences between the bulk of both parties," she said, adding: "The ball is in the court of Iran. We expect that Iran decides whether to take diplomatic measures to restore confidence and address the concerns of the international community. But there are still lots and lots to do. "
During the negotiations, the major powers reiterated their demand that Iran halt its uranium enrichment activities to 20% and close its underground plant at Fordo, she said. A meeting at expert level will take place July 3 in Istanbul, Ashton said, arguing that it would focus on technical details rather than on wider policy issues.
"The differences are significant," said for his part the Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, representing Russia in the negotiations. "This is precisely why we needed five plenary sessions and numerous bilateral meetings," he said, according to Interfax news agency.
Meanwhile, the Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili said that this session of discussions had been more serious and realistic than previous ones, but reiterated that uranium enrichment was an Iranian right and that there was no reason to doubt the peaceful intentions of Iran's nuclear program. He also reaffirmed that the UN Security Council resolutions against Iran were "illegal", but nevertheless Tehran wanted a new round of negotiations. "We hope that the technical meeting (July 3) will lead to acceptable conclusions and come up with proposals so that Ashton and I can decide the date and place of future negotiations," he added.
Iran has proposed four areas of cooperation: trust, cooperation for transparency, the fight against proliferation of nuclear weapons and nuclear cooperation, said Jalili. "We emphasize that cooperation can be achieved when it is carried out by both sides," he insisted.
Late in evening, Paris responded to the failure. Sanctions against Iran should be "hardened", said the French FM, Laurent Fabius. "The pressure must now grow on Iran with the full implementation the 1 July oil embargo by the European Union. The sanctions would continue as long as Iran refuses to negotiate seriously," he added.
The failure of talks with Iran is fueling the hypothesis of a military intervention by Israel, who threatened to attack Iranian nuclear sites if diplomatic efforts fail.
The Moscow meeting is the third of its kind since Iran and the West have resumed talks in April after fifteen months of interruption.