Die Welt Interview with Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Excerpts)

September 29, 2006

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

Related Country: 

  • Iran

 . . .

Question: Mr Minister, you spoke to Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani yesterday. Does Iran seem prepared to negotiate?

Answer: The Iranian side is certainly prepared to talk. But that doesn't mean that we've managed to begin substantive negotiations. At present, we are trying to establish whether Iran is willing to enter into serious negotiations about its nuclear programme and to restore the international community's confidence. My talks with Mr Larijani were intensive, constructive, and I hope they brought us a step forward.

Question: Did you get the impression, or did Larijani give a clear sign, that the international community will have to make a yet better offer of cooperation to Iran in return for it suspending uranium enrichment?

Answer: Our offer is on the table. We are offering Iran broad and extensive cooperation which will give the country a genuine opportunity for the future. And I can't remember any other country being given a similar offer in recent times. So we can't improve our offer. Rather, we are now waiting for a clear signal from Iran which would make it possible to start negotiations on our offer.

Question: Beforehand, Larijani spoke to the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. Do you know if Solana was happy with the talks?

Answer: I met Javier Solana that very evening after the first round of talks and he asked me to support him by holding my own bilateral meeting with Mr Larijani. I was happy to oblige, for concrete progress is in the interest of us all. There will probably be further contact between Javier Solana and Mr Larijani during the next week.

Question: These are still simply "talks", they certainly can't be called "negotiations". Shouldn't the international community now draw up a timetable for the next steps so that the impression isn't created that Iran is merely stalling while it happily continues its enrichment programme?

Answer: You're quite right: we're holding talks. We can't speak of negotiations until Iran lives up to the international community's expectations and proves beyond doubt that its nuclear programme is being used exclusively for peaceful purposes. We made it clear at the meeting of the six foreign ministers in New York last week that we are prepared to postpone referring this matter back to the Security Council if there is a chance that talks will resolve the situation. There is therefore still time for negotiations. But this time is limited.

Question: Do all of Iran's interlocutors have the same patience? Or will Washington soon press for sanctions, something which would jeopardize the international community's united front?

Answer: Washington, too, understands very well that there is still hope that we can enter into negotiations with Iran which could dispel the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear programme. At the moment we are all still very much hoping that we can get Iran back to the negotiating table.

Question: Has the group of six negotiating partners - the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - now become a group of seven, following Javier Solana's inclusion?

Answer: No, for nothing has changed. The starting point is and remains the readiness of three European states - Germany, France, Britain - to shoulder responsibility in this pressing international matter. However, this was only possible because the other member states of the European Union gave us their full backing from the outset. This support is manifested for all to see in Javier Solana's role. His commitment is tremendous. We couldn't have wished for a more experienced or better champion of our cause.

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