Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) have just ended the first round of talks in the Turkish city of Istanbul.
The first round of the new comprehensive talks began on Saturday after a 15-month hiatus. The Iranian delegation present at the talks is headed by Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Saeed Jalili and the delegations of the six world powers are headed by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Tehran and the P5+1 held two rounds of talks in the past, one in Geneva in December 2010 and another in Istanbul in January 2011.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Mohammad Marandi, professor of Tehran University, to further discuss the issue. What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.
This meeting does come with a lot of pressure being applied on Iran and is being called the most sensitive session held by both sides. Do you see it that way too?
They are trying to put a lot of pressure on Iran but I do not think it is having this sort of effect they are hoping it would. The sanctions obviously do cause difficulties in the country but the attempt to prevent Iran from selling oil or from doing trade by putting an embargo on the Central Bank has really failed.
It has only angered Iranians because it is obvious that the Americans and the Europeans are directing the sanctions at ordinary Iranians and trying to make them suffer. So it has really an adverse effect.
And in addition, the Iranians are finding new partners to replace the Europeans in the Far East, in Asia and in Latin America, countries that are more than willing to do trade with Iran and the world is changing at the end of the day.
Europe and the United States are becoming less important. So the pressure is not that strong and Iran is in a strong position because it has shown that its nuclear program is highly developed and there is no sign that it is anything but peaceful.
We will get to the issue of sanctions in just a bit, but a source close to the Iranian delegation has said that Iran is seeing very few encouraging points made by US and EU officials in the G8 Summit. What does the group of the P5+1 have to offer to Iran when both sides sit at the negotiating table today?
I think it is pretty clear. At the end of the day, they have to recognize Iran’s sovereignty and that Iran will continue to enrich uranium and to produce nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes.
The Iranians have shown over the past few years that they will not halt their program; they did it in the past for two years and they applied the addition of protocol in order to create confidence with the other side and the Europeans and Americans basically misused that.
They tried to take advantage of Iran. So the Iranians, after discovering and making sure that the Europeans and the Americans were not serious in resolving the issue, they began enriching uranium again and then when Iran’s fuel for the Tehran reactor which produces medical isotopes was running out, again Iran asked for fuel and the Western countries prevented Iran from obtaining it and now they are producing enriched uranium at 20 percent to treat cancer patients at the Tehran reactor.
And so it shows that Iran can produce nuclear energy and it has the sophisticated knowledge to do so. So the Iranians in this center are in a very strong position but at the end of the day, the Iranians are willing to take extra steps to create trust if the Europeans and the Americans show themselves to be serious this time, unlike on previous occasions.
Speaking of which, there is a major concern over the lack of trust surrounding these talks. The West has not come through on its past promises, as you just pointed out, and it has continued to adopt unilateral sanctions against Iran. How do you see this affecting the meeting as a whole and as negotiations get under way?
Two things really: one is that the lack of trust is there and I think it is in the eyes of the Iranians that it is basically the fault of the West. If you recall, in the past the Iranians had a meeting with the former Brazilian president and the Turkish prime minister.
The Brazilian president had a letter and so did the Turkish prime minister from the US president Obama where he said that if certain conditions are met, I will agree to an agreement that you make with Iran.
They came to an agreement with Iran and then we had the Tehran declaration. Immediately after that, Obama backtracked, effectively lied and went for new sanctions, despite the fact that the Tehran declaration was well within the scope of the letter which anyone can see on the Internet.
So when the US president’s signature is unreliable, when he is dishonest and he backtracks, then really the United States has no credibility in the eyes of the Iranians. So it will be very difficult for the Iranians to have trust in the future.
In addition, the fact that they try to impose sanctions on the Iranian Central Bank and the oil industry is an attempt to even prevent Iran from importing or exporting food stuffs. So the attempt is to destroy the Iranian economy and this only angers ordinary Iranians who see this as a really inhuman and barbaric measure, to put it bluntly.
So it only makes any deal more difficult but at the end of the day, if the Western powers really shift their position today, then I think the Iranians will take extra steps to help move towards rapprochement.
Speaking of taking new positions, Iran has said it is ready to give new proposals at the meeting. But there are speculations, on the other hand, that the P5+1 will again push for Iran to stop enriching uranium to the 20% level. Are the same old approaches going to help?
No, the same old approaches are not going to help. Iran is adamant that its nuclear rights will be preserved. This is an issue of sovereignty.
The fact that the Western countries have said very little about enrichment at 3.5 to 4 or 5 percent shows that Iran’s position has forced them to change their approach already to a degree.
But again, it is the Western mentality that has to change. If they want to use carrots and sticks, which is a pretty I think racist terminology, or tighten the noose, as they call it, which again is a very distasteful phrase, then I think they are not going to get anywhere.
But if they recognize Iran’s rights, then obviously the Iranians will change their attitude and work and develop ways in which the greatest trust can be developed. But in the eyes of many Iranians, the issue really has so far not been the Iranian nuclear program because there is no evidence that there is a problem with it and that it has a military aspect with it.
In fact, the Russians and the Chinese, their positions have changed dramatically and they have moved away from the Europeans.