Source: IIP Digital (The U.S. Department of State)
European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton (left) with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
Clinton welcomed Iran's apparent readiness to return to talks, but said, "If we do proceed, it will have to be a sustained effort that can produce results."
Washington - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton welcomed Iran's apparent offer to resume talks with the United States and its partners in the P5+1 as "an important step" and said the offer is being closely analyzed.
"This response from the Iranian government is one we've been waiting for and if we do proceed, it will have to be a sustained effort that can produce results," Clinton told reporters at the State Department February 17 in remarks with the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton.
Ashton has been representing France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, China and the United States - collectively known as the P5+1 - in discussions stemming over international concern that Iran is developing nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program.
In a written response to Ashton's October 2011 letter to Iranian officials, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said February 14 that his government is ready to resume nuclear talks with the P5+1 at the "earliest" opportunity.
Clinton said the P5+1 is now collectively engaged in thorough diplomatic consultations to evaluate Jalili's response.
According to Ashton's 2011 letter, the P5+1 had said any discussions with Iran would need to begin with talks about its nuclear activities.
"Iran's response to Cathy's letter does appear to acknowledge and accept that," Clinton said.
Ashton had also asked for assurances that there would be "a sustained effort by Iran to come to the table, to work until we have reached an outcome that has Iran coming back into compliance with their international obligations," Clinton said.
In her remarks, Ashton also welcomed the possibility that Iran may be ready to resume discussions.
"I am cautious and I am optimistic at the same time," Ashton said.
Iran last had talks with the P5+1 in January 2011, during which the group offered a series of suggested confidence-building measures Iran could take to help move the process forward. In addition, Ashton said the P5+1 has continued to offer its October 2009 proposal to provide Iran's Tehran Research Reactor with enriched uranium fuel, provided that the enrichment be done outside Iran to ensure that the uranium would not be enriched to a level that could be used for nuclear weapons.
"If we start the talks, we want to sustain them," and therefore there will need to be a process to allow P5+1 to clarify what they want to achieve and "what we're expecting from the Iranians," Ashton said.
"That's what we're in the process of doing right now," she said.
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