Washington, Iran Skeptical as Iran Nuclear Talks Begin

Both sides downplayed expectations, with a diplomatic breakthrough unlikely.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd L), European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (C ) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (2ndR) wait prior to a meeting on November 9, 2013, on the third day of talks on Iran's nuclear programme at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva Switzerland. Crunch talks between Iran and world powers stretched into an unscheduled third day on November 9 as top diplomats pushed for a deal to end the decade-old standoff over Iran's nuclear programme. 
National Journal
Jordain Carney
Feb. 18, 2014, 7:19 a.m.

Talks aimed at reach­ing a long-term agree­ment on Ir­an’s nuc­le­ar pro­gram kicked off Tues­day, but even in the nas­cent stages, both U.S. and Ir­a­ni­an of­fi­cials are work­ing to strangle ex­pect­a­tions.

“Pres­id­ent Obama has said, and I quite agree, it’s prob­ably as likely that we won’t get an agree­ment as it is that we will,” a seni­or ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said, but ad­ded the talks are the ” best chance” for a dip­lo­mat­ic res­ol­u­tion to the long-stand­ing prob­lem.

For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­hammad Javad Za­rif will at­tend the talks for Ir­an. Cath­er­ine Ashton, the European Uni­on’s for­eign policy chief, will rep­res­ent the United King­dom, the United States, France, Rus­sia, Ger­many, and China.

Ir­an’s Su­preme Lead­er Ayatol­lah Ali Khame­nei said in a state­ment that he is “not op­tim­ist­ic about the talks, and they will reach nowhere.”

Sched­uled to last through Thursday, the ses­sions aren’t ex­pec­ted to pro­duce any ma­jor dip­lo­mat­ic break­throughs; a seni­or ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial noted that the fo­cus would be on de­cid­ing “what the format will be, what the tim­ing will be, how much will be done at the ex­pert level, vice the polit­ic­al dir­ect­or or for­eign min­is­ter level.”

Ashton pre­vi­ously sug­ges­ted that talks to find a long-term agree­ment could last longer than the six-month time­frame that was de­cided un­der the in­ter­im agree­ment. And seni­or ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials on Monday sidestepped ques­tions about what would hap­pen if there wasn’t a deal after 12 months.

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