Turkey optimistic on Iran talks but EU says no progress
(BRUSSELS) - Turkey's foreign minister said Wednesday that both Iran and global powers were ready and willing to restart talks on Tehran's controversial nuclear programme, but the EU said there was no progress.
"Both sides declared the intention to meet and to restart the negotiations" but "of course it is up to both sides to decide," Ahmet Davutoglu said during a visit to NATO headquarters.
The minister told journalists that during his recent visit to Tehran "Iran declared that they are ready to restart the talks".
"Before that I had consultations with Madame (Catherine) Ashton," who represents six world powers in the nuclear negotiations with Iran which have been in limbo for a year.
"She in fact asked me to consult this with the Iranian side as well. And afterwards I talked with Madame Ashton again," he said. "We will be happy to host this new round of talks."
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said during a visit to Turkey Wednesday that the next round of talks would probably be in Istanbul and that a date would be set in the near future, Turkish media reported.
Davutoglu is to meet Salehi on Thursday and join EU foreign ministers for talks on Monday that will touch both on Iran and Syria.
A spokesman for Ashton was less optimistic than Davutoglu.
"We've always said we're open for talks," Michael Mann told AFP. "However we will not do so until there's a response from Iran in substance to the (EU) High Representative's letter of October last year."
Ashton sent a letter to Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in October proposing renewed talks as long as Tehran imposed no pre-conditions, but Mann said she had still not received a formal reply.
Ashton's spokesman said the 5+1 group -- permanent UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus non-permanent member Germany -- has repeatedly said it is "open for discussions on confidence-building measures on the Iranian nuclear programme, without pre-conditions from the Iranian side."
The last round of talks took place in Turkey in January 2011.
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