GENEVA – Nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers ended on an upbeat note Wednesday, with top Western and Iranian negotiators announcing a follow-up round early next month while speaking of significant progress in efforts to reduce fears that Tehran may be seeking atomic arms.
Despite abandoning the pessimistic tone of previous meetings, however, negotiators refused to reveal details on what – if any – concessions Iran offered. That gives potential traction to skeptics who can claim the conference was aimed more at building trust and silencing critics at home than in resolving the thorny issues that have blocked progress over a decade of talks.
Iran denies suspicions that it wants nuclear arms and has resisted incentives and tough penalties aimed at curbing its atomic activities. But since reformist Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took office in August, senior officials from Rouhani on down have pledged to meet international concerns in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions.
The post-meeting optimism expressed by senior Western and Iranian officials suggested that Tehran had put forward serious proposals at the two-day talks. Catherine Ashton, the EUs top diplomat, spoke of a very intensive and, I think, a very important meeting, while Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said he hoped for the beginning of a new phase between his country and some of its most vehement critics.
I believe that both sides are serious about finding a resolution, that both sides want to find common ground, Zarif said. And I hope that my counterparts ... will also take back home the fact that Iran is interested in resolving this issue.
In Washington, demands in Congress grew for a speedy escalation of sanctions against Iran as two days of nuclear talks ended in Geneva, setting up a potential foreign policy clash with the Obama administration while it seeks a diplomatic end to the standoff with Tehran.
Even as negotiations between world powers and Iran ended on an upbeat note, with a new round of discussions set for November, lawmakers quickly expressed their skepticism and laid out red lines for the talks. Members of both parties have backed tougher economic pressure on Iran in recent years amid concern it is closing in on nuclear weapons capability.
With talks in the Swiss city barely over, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida introduced a Senate resolution calling for more pressure.
No one should be impressed by what Iran appears to have brought to the table in Geneva, Rubio said. Tehran has broken its word far too many times to be trusted. Due to its complete disregard for previous international agreements, we must take a firm stand in all negotiations regarding the nuclear capabilities Iran is permitted to retain.