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With Netanyahu preoccupied, Sextet on Iran pushes for talks

Published time: November 22, 2012 11:35
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (AFP Photo / Gali Tibbon)

Despite frustration with the foot-dragging over Iran – which is suspected by several countries, including the United States and Israel of developing a nuclear weapons program – Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryanbkov noted signs of progress.

"Our main task…is to move from the stage of exchanging proposals to specific discussion of a mutually acceptable result,” the Russian diplomat told reporters on Wednesday. “That's what we are working on now and the meeting that took place in Brussels today addressed the way we will proceed."

When pushed for specific details as to the nature of the deliberations, Ryabkov said it was too early to reveal the proposals and ideas.

This issue will be discussed directly at the negotiating table where “Iran will need to make its own judgment on the position (of the international mediators),” he stressed.

A spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the six countries in dealings with Iran, echoed the Russian position, saying that “the (six powers) are committed to having another round of talks with Iran as soon as possible."

Diplomats from the six world powers – Russia, China, the United States, France, Britain and Germany – assembled in the Belgium capital in what some political observers fear may be a last-ditch effort to put talks with Tehran on the fast track. The sense of urgency over Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran insists is solely a civilian energy program, comes as Israel is stepping up pressure for global action.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the United Nations General Assembly in September to draw "a clear red line" to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

"It's not a question of whether Iran will get the bomb,” Netanyahu told the international body. “The question is at what stage we can stop Iran from getting the bomb.”

Ryabkov pointed to a “window of opportunity” for the global community to resolve the Iranian crisis, which has resulted in a series of economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

The opportunity that the deputy foreign minister spoke of is based on several turn of events that are now preoccupying Netanyahu.

First, according to a number of inside reports, the Israeli leader was quietly hedging his bets that the Republican challenger Mitt Romney would beat Barack Obama, thus putting a firm supporter of Israeli initiatives in the White House. After all, it was no secret that the Obama-Netanyahu relationship was on the rocks.

In late September, Obama is alleged to have “snubbed” Netanyahu, refusing to meet with the Israeli leader during his American visit.

Now, Netanyahu has his hands full with an aerial campaign against the Gaza Strip, dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense, which has seen the Israeli military bomb some 1,500 targets inside of the Palestinian enclave in an effort to destabilize Hamas, the Palestinian political party that governs Gaza.

Against the backdrop of these unsettling events, Ryabkov stressed the importance of getting back to the negotiating table.

“There is no losing time and, from that point of view, the talks were productive and matters have advanced," he said.

Another sticking point in the talks is that trust between Iran and the (delegates from the six world powers) “is scarce – in fact it does not exist.” This makes the task of reaching a breakthrough between the parties “extremely complex.”

Ryabkov reiterated Russia’s position that the negotiation process should have been resumed a long time ago after a pause, "otherwise we will suffer a setback and return to the situation that existed before Istanbul in April," he said.

Robert Bridge, RT

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