Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik Comments on Nuclear Talks with Iran in Geneva

July 21, 2008

"This is the first time in a long period that representatives as the US and Iran have sat together round a table. The high-ranking US participation in the nuclear talks makes a qualitative difference and is designed to surmount the decades of silence between Washington and Tehran," commented Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik on yesterday's talks' in Geneva between EU High Representative for the CFSP Javier Solana and Iranian chief negotiator Said Jalili, which were also attended by high representatives of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, among them for the first time US Undersecretary of State William Burns, as well as of Germany. The talks are to be continued in two weeks' time.

"In recent years I have repeatedly advocated direct talks between the USA and Iran. This clear change of direction on the part of the USA opens up a new perspective and emphasizes the serious nature of the endeavors of the international community of states towards a diplomatic solution for the Iranian nuclear issue. The USA is clearly supporting the negotiations conducted by EU High Representative Javier Solana. Even though the negotiation path is rather stony, it is the only way to break out of the current spiral of lack of confidence and regional confrontation," Plassnik went on. The Foreign Minister met with Undersecretary of State William Burns for talks in Vienna last Friday, shortly after the Geneva meeting.

"I expect a clear answer from Iran. Iran should grasp the outstretched hand and take up the international community's enlarged offer of closer cooperation in a constructive manner. Iran must not reject this opportunity lightly by maneuvering the talks into a deadlock. It is now up to Iran to jump over its own shadow and meet the international negotiating partners on half way. This is an opportunity for Iran to normalize its relations with the international community of states and rebuild confidence in the fragile Middle East with its many tensions," stated Plassnik, referring to the proposal of a uranium enrichment moratorium in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against Iran.

Austria had always supported the international community's two-pronged approach towards Iran - a comprehensive offer of negotiations in combination with UN Security Council measures against the nuclear programmer. In this context Plassnik reminded her audience that the offer of comprehensive cooperation with Iran had been formulated at a meeting of the foreign ministers of the permanent UN Security Council members and Germany in Vienna, adding that this offer had recently been enlarged.