World powers and Iran have wrapped up talks about Tehran’s nuclear program with both sides far from reaching a deal. There was not even an agreement on when the next round of talks should take place.
The meeting in the Kazakh city of Almaty ended on Saturday with little progress made, according to international negotiators.
The European Union's foreign policy coordinator, Catherine Ashton, lead negotiator in the talks on behalf of the six countries involved in discussions with Iran, said substantial differences remained between the sides.
"Over two days of talks we had long and intensive discussions on the issues addressed in our confidence-building proposal," Ashton told journalists. "It became clear that our positions remain far apart."
The international P5+1 group - the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany - are demanding that Iran cease high grade uranium enrichment, fearing that the country could use the processed material to build a nuclear warhead.
Ashton claimed that there had been little in the way of "real engagement" by Iran’s team, led by chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.
"I think the first hurdle is to take the proposal that we put on the table and get a real response to all of it," Ashton said. "It's pretty obvious what we want to achieve in the end and we have very often spelled that out."
Some satisfaction, nonetheless
Despite the lack of progress, Ashton said she was satisfied with the depth and quality of the negotiations.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the P5+1 countries and Iran had failed to reach a "mutual understanding," adding that it was too premature to set a date and venue for future talks. However, Ryabkov said some progress had been made.
"Certainly these talks were a step forward," he said. "We could not reach a compromise this time."
Iran says it should be allowed to enrich uranium, and that its intentions are purely peaceful. Tehran claims that an offer to relax international sanctions against it does not go far enough to warrant making concessions on its part.
rc/pfd (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)