Washington DC – NIAC welcomes the State Department’s decision to have Undersecretary William Burns participate in nuclear negotiations with Iran this weekend in Geneva together with Washington’s European allies. While the State Department characterizes the meeting as a “one-time deal”, it signals a significant shift in U.S.’ long-standing policy and demonstrates a positive step towards reducing the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“The missing ingredient in curtailing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions has been the absence of U.S. participation in the talks” said Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council. “Undersecretary Burns’ presence at the table will provide the major boost, that to date, has been missing.”
“For all practical purposes, the Bush Administration’s precondition that Iran must suspend uranium enrichment before the U.S. will hold talks has been shelved,” Parsi added.
Still, Burns’ presence at the talks in Geneva doesn’t in and of itself signal the imminence of a resolution.
According to Parsi, “there are no quick fixes in the nuclear talks and expectations must remain moderate in the short-term. The immediate objective must still focus on creating an atmosphere that enables diplomacy to succeed.”
By sending Burns to Geneva, Washington puts the onus back on Iran to show goodwill and flexibility.
“This puts the ball back in Tehran’s court,” Parsi continued. “Though American participation in the talks won’t lead to an immediate breakthrough, it does signal American sincerity and increases the prospects for a short-term freeze-for-freeze.”
Under the freeze-for-freeze formula, Iran would halt any advancement in its enrichment activities for a period of six weeks while the Security Council would refrain from imposing additional sanctions on Iran. During this period, the Europeans and Iran would negotiate an agreement on the modalities of a full suspension, after which the United States would formally join the talks.
Freeze-for-freeze does not necessarily resolve the nuclear issue, but it can help kick-start the talks and provides an avenue to find a formula for real negotiations down the road. For those negotiations to take place and succeed, all sides must show greater flexibility.
“Sending Burns to Geneva is a significant step in the right direction,” Parsi said. “And to build on this and reach a sustainable solution, the zero-enrichment objective must be reassessed. To avoid a nuclear armed Iran, it is more realistic to limit than to eliminate Iran’s enrichment program.”
Irancove @ July 16, 2008