European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met her Iranian counterpart on Tuesday, renewing dialogue over Tehran’s nuclear development.
Yesterday’s meeting in Istanbul between Ashton and Iran’s Saeed Jalili is the first direct discussions between the two sides since a series of three talks ended with no agreement in June. However, it is believed that the pair spoke by phone last month. Although neither side would provide details of their talks behind closed doors on Tuesday, Ashton said that she hopes ‘to assess the situation and to discuss the way forward’ with partners on the sidelines of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.
However, an indication of the importance of Tuesday’s meeting was given by a EU spokesman before the discussions, who described it as ‘an opportunity to stress once again to Iran the need for an urgent and meaningful confidence-building step’.
In a related development, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have reportedly confiscated items bound for Iran, which could have been used to aid Tehran’s nuclear programme. According to Reuters, the materials seized include carbon fibres, which is said to be crucial to advanced nuclear enrichment.
Some officials believe that the active participation of Bahrain and the UAE in combating Iranian atomic development represents significant progress in international efforts to enforce sanctions on Iran. According to Reuters, a senior UN Security Council diplomat commented, ‘It shows that the UN sanctions regime can work. UAE has been one of Iran’s enablers. Iran’s becoming more isolated.’