Jeffrey LewisEU-Iran Complete Round of Negotiations

After a 13 December 2004 meeting of the EU3-Iran “Steering Group” (right) that Javiar Solana called “more symbolic than substantive,” Iran-EU working groups began to deal substantively with three issue baskets: economic-technical, political-security and nuclear cooperation.

(Paul summarized the working group structure and schedule in Arms Control Today.)

The Western press has done surprisingly little covering the meetings, so much of what we know is based on Iranian press.

Working Group EU Lead Date Round
Nuclear France 17 December 2004 1
Economic-Technical United Kingdom 12 January 2005 5
Political-Secrurity Germany 13 January 2005 4

(Note: Paul isn’t 100 percent on my description of the relationship between the working groups and the Steering Group. We’re looking into it.)

  • The Nuclear Working Group began talks much earlier than the other working groups, Iran’s Mehr News Agency reported, “due to Iran’s request that delays should be avoided, particularly in nuclear talks. Mehr reported that the EU offered to provide nuclear fuel to Iran. Iranian negotiator Sirus Naseri called the proposals “a victory for the country, although this was not what we were aiming for. If they had suggested this seven or eight years ago, we might have accepted, but now we wont.”
  • The Economic-Technical Working Group resumed talks on a Trade and Cooperation Agreement, suspended since June 2003. Talks focused on WTO-like issues including market access and legal harmonization. “The EU expects that we comply all our trade regime to the WTO rules and regulations. This is both an important but a difficult process,” spokesperson Esfandiar Omidbakhsh told IRNA.
  • IRNA also reported that the Political-Security Working Group convened to discuss human rights, regional security, terrorism and proliferation. “The negotiations were good. The atmosphere was positive and understanding. Both sides are interested to continue the work that we have started,” Ebrahim Rahimpur, head of the Iranian delegation to the talks, told IRNA.

IRNA indicated that the next round of talks is scheduled for March in Tehran. All of this occurs against the background of the IAEA’s continued verification of Iran’s suspension of uranium enrichment. “There will be no explicit conditionality in the agreement, but there is a political context,” a senior EU official told the German Press Agency, “If there is a substantial change in the Iranian position (on nuclear enrichment), then we will have to consider the implications.”

Hosein Mousavian started a small row by indicating that Iran might resume uranium enrichment if a deal was not struck by March; he later backed off and announced “an agreement with the Europeans not to threaten each other with a deadline.”

On January 12, the IAEA began a one-week inspection of the Iranian military facility at Parchin (left) on January 12. Washington suspects Parchin is used to conduct research on high explosives that would be used in an Iranian bomb design. The IAEA statement was brief: “I confirm that a team of IAEA inspectors is today conducting an inspection at Parchin, including the taking of environmental samples,” IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky told reporters. Mousavian told reporters that Iran would “not to allow any espionage or intelligence theft” from sites visited by the IAEA; the IAEA reported no restrictions on its visit.