Foreign Ministers of the P5+1 Countries Pledge Continued Unity on the Iran Nuclear Issue

February 4, 2009

Weapon Program: 

  • Missile
  • Nuclear

Washington - Top diplomats pledged continued unity in efforts to convince Iran to suspend its nuclear program and welcomed President Obama's willingness to engage with Tehran.

Representatives from the P5+1 - U.N. Security Council permanent members China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, together with Germany - met in Wiesbaden, Germany February 4 to confer on Iran's nuclear challenge and reaffirm their shared commitment to a diplomatic resolution.

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns represented the United States at the six-nation meeting - the first since President Obama took office - and briefed members on the initial stages of the new administration's comprehensive review of its policy toward Iran.

"If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us," Obama said in a January 27 interview with the Saudi satellite channel al-Arabiya, pledging to lay out a new diplomatic approach to Iran based on "direct dialogue" and "mutual respect." (See "Analysis: Will Iran Accept America's "Open Hand"?.")

In 2006, Iran suspended the authority of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to conduct no-notice inspections of its nuclear sites. It has refused to address evidence of weapons-related elements of its uranium enrichment program, which Tehran claims is aimed at developing nuclear energy but a growing number of nations - including the United States - suspects is a covert drive to build nuclear weapons.

Since then, the P5+1 has pursued a "dual-track" approach of offering diplomatic incentives for Iran to suspend enrichment backed by three rounds of political and economic sanctions on government agencies, Iranian officials, banks and other institutions linked to its nuclear efforts.

Officials report that members did not discuss new sanctions at the meeting, but agreed to meet again once the United States completes its Iran policy review, possibly as early as next month in London.

"The readiness of the new administration to reach out to Iran was explicitly welcomed by all at today's meeting in Wiesbaden," said German Foreign Ministry spokesman Jens Ploetner, who urged Iranian officials to seize the diplomatic opportunity Washington is offering. "We hope that this outstretched hand will not be seen as a sign of weakness in Tehran."

As America seeks a new diplomatic approach to Iran, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tehran must comply fully with the United Nations over its nuclear program.

"President Obama has signaled his intention to support tough and direct diplomacy with Iran," Secretary Clinton said after meetings with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on February 3. "If Tehran does not comply with United Nations Security Council and IAEA mandates, there must be consequences."

"I think you'll find that there is increasing commonality among the United States, our European allies, friends in the Gulf and the Middle East that we need a more effective and united approach toward Iran," Clinton added. "That's our goal."

Since Obama extended America's offer, Iran has turned away a goodwill visit from the U.S. women's badminton team and launched its first satellite into orbit - a small step forward for an Iranian space program that experts say could also represent a significant leap forward for Iranian ballistic missile development. (See "Iranian Satellite Launch Heightens International Nuclear Concerns.")

"This action does not convince us that Iran is acting responsibly to advance stability or security in the region," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, who called the launch a matter of "acute concern."

In April, Obama will travel to Strasbourg, France, for the 60th Anniversary NATO Summit, where Iran is likely to top the agenda in several sideline meetings with his European counterparts. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a joint statement February 4 in support of "new, very resolute sanctions if necessary" to halt Iran's disputed nuclear activities. "We will not permit an Iranian nuclear bomb because this would threaten world peace."

"We want to be helpful in making sure that the outstretched hand of President Obama is a strong hand," Steinmeier said.