EU-Iran: too early for optimism
Shortly before Ashton made this statement the EU had approved a new package of tough unilateral sanctions against Tehran putting pressure on the financial sector. The new sanctions imply that with few exceptions all transactions between European and Iranian banks are banned. The sanctions also include trade restrictions: European countries are not allowed to buy gas from Iran. The EU is to stop selling software, metals, graphite for the steel industry to Tehran as well as to supply tankers for oil shipments. Perhaps the EU officials hope that the new measures will force Tehran to accept its ultimatum and fully abandon uranium enrichment operations. But such an approach won’t give the desired result, Vladimir Yevseyev, head of the Center of Social and Political studies, says.
"In its turn Iran set 9 conditions to the EU on which it will agree to stop enrichment work at its Fordo plant. It is unlikely that the EU will accept all these conditions. What is possible now is to expect some mutual concessions and here a lot will depend on what the EU will propose to Iran. Certain concessions are possible on a step-by-step and mutual understanding basis as it was proposed by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. But the EU insists that first Iran should meet all its requirements and only then the sanctions will be removed."
Expert at the Institute of the Middle East Sergey Seryogichev sees the issue under a different angle.
"Probably the parties have already come to a certain compromise which will enable both Iran and the EU not to lose face. Perhaps Ashton meant just that when she made her statement. But this will be a tactical compromise, a tactical stop on the way of further deterioration of the crisis. Ashton is unlikely to say that the US president is ready to meet his Iranian counterpart to discuss the state of US-Iran relations. Although this could be a powerful move which would disorient many forces on the Middle East."
Anything the EU deserves credit for trying to avoid military solutions of the conflict and using exclusively political and economic means, Sergey Seryogichev says.
"Perhaps we will hear another high-profile statement from Iranians that they are ready to make concessions and ready to abandon some of their demands. But more than this is very unlikely. As a PR-move, Iranians can open some their nuclear facilities which are already well-known to the experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency."
Voice of Russia experts do not expect any breakthrough in the next round of talks between the six international mediators and Iran which is likely to be held in December after the US presidential elections. A lot will depend on whether Iran and the members of the Six continue to stick to their lopsided positions or not. In 2013 the negotiating process will be frozen till the end of the summer. In January the presidential election campaign starts in Iran and in June the country will hold the elections.