|EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton will host the talks on behalf of six major powers [EPA]|
Iran has agreed to take part in talks on its controversial nuclear programme after 14 months of stalemate.
Said Jalili, Iran’s nuclear negotiator, will meet Catherine Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief who heads an international delegation on the nuclear issue, on December 6 and 7.
“We have now received a formal response from the Iranian authorities confirming that Dr Jalili has agreed to Catherine Ashton’s proposal to meet in Geneva,” an EU foreign affairs spokesman said on Tuesday.
“Talks between Ashton, on behalf of the E3+3, and Jalili will now take place on Monday and Tuesday of next week in Geneva.”
Ashton has the backing of the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany – referred to as the E3+3 or the P5+1 – to hold talks with Iran on its nuclear programme.
The US and its allies have said that they are concerned Iran is trying to build an atomic weapon, but Iran insists that its nuclear programme is simply to meet civilian energy needs.
The talks will be the first high-level meeting with Iran on the issue since October 2009.
Al Jazeera’s Laurence Lee, reporting from London, said that there were “sticking points” even before the talks take place.
“The Iranians want to talk about the fuel swap idea that they brokered with Turkey, whereas the powers – the European Union and the other powers – want to talk about the very fact of the nuclear programme,” he said.
Iran has repeatedly refused to stop its uranium enrichment process, a key demand of the six powers, but did agree to exchange its low-enriched uranium in Turkey for nuclear fuel processed abroad.
Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran’s foreign minister, proposed in October that the talks with the six powers should resume “in late October or early November”.
His remarks came just weeks after EU foreign ministers formally adopted new sanctions on Iran’s key energy sector, with Canada following suit, in a bid to push Tehran into talks on its nuclear programme.
The new EU sanctions included a ban on the sale of equipment, technology and services to Iran’s energy sector and came a month after the United States passed similar sanctions
The EU and US restrictions came on top of a fourth round of sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.