The P5+1 and Iran are set to resume talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan on February 26. While several meetings between technical experts were held last fall, this represents the first high-level political meeting since June 2012.
All members of the P5+1 – the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany – will be present to convince Iran to address ongoing concerns over its nuclear program.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but as many experts note, Iran’s enrichment activities and stockpile of 3.5% and 20% enriched uranium are out of step with the needs of their civil nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Association has also raised concerns about past nuclear weapons work at the Parchin military facility, which its inspectors have not been allowed to visit despite repeated requests.
Although concerns about Iran’s past and current nuclear program remain, U.S. intelligence assesses that Iran has not yet decided to pursue a nuclear weapon. The Kazakhstan meeting therefore serves as a window of opportunity for ongoing negotiations.
This talk may not lead to a breakthrough. The proposed deal by the P5+1 will likely be an updated version of the deal offered last year, including familiar demands: halt production of 20% enriched uranium, shut down the Fordow nuclear facility, and ship the stockpile of 20% enriched uranium out of the country. In the past, these demands have been rejected by Iran.
Tehran seems likely to insist on significant sanctions relief in exchange for partial concessions — a move also previously rejected by the West.
While this round of talks may not lead to a breakthrough, there is potential for small confidence building measures that would go a long way towards easing tension and paving the way for a solution. The talks open the door of diplomacy and are a step in the right direction.