Time to return to talks table

Updated: 2013-01-19 07:56

By Wang Hui (China Daily)

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Teheran's ban on nuclear arms and IAEA's efforts have created right atmosphere for P5+1 to resume negotiations with Iran

Talks between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran concluded on Thursday in Teheran without reaching a much-hoped-for deal. But the two sides have agreed to meet again on Feb 12.

On the eve of IAEA experts' arrival, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said on Tuesday that a religious decree, issued earlier by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on nuclear weapons ban is binding on the Islamic republic. He also said Iran is ready to register it as an "international document".

These parallel efforts are positive developments in the long-standing Iranian nuclear issue, thanks mainly to the IAEA and Iran both showing greater interest in engaging with each other.

Iran's latest stance on banning nuclear weapons should be welcomed, not least because it could help ease the long simmering tension between the Islamic republic and the West.

The relevant countries - in fact, the whole international community - should build on this good momentum so that the stalled negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group could resume later this month. The P5+1 comprises permanent UN Security Council members China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, plus Germany.

Earlier this month, media reports had said the talks were likely to be resumed in January. But the group has not yet decided on the date and place.

Iran's standoff with the West over its nuclear program started about a decade ago. The West has accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons under the cover of civilian nuclear program, but Teheran has been vehemently denying the allegation.

Despite the international community's efforts in recent years to draw the relevant parties to the negotiating table, nothing much has changed. There has been little sign of an end to the stalemate. Instead, the hostility and acrimony between Iran and the US-led West have deepened, which in turn have heightened tensions in the Middle East.

The US and its European allies imposed crippling sanctions on Iran last year but still could not achieve a breakthrough in the issue. Three rounds of negotiations between P5+1 and Iran were held last year, the first in Istanbul in April, the second in Baghdad in May and the last in Moscow in June, without yielding any substantial result because Iran rejected the group's calls to curb its nuclear enrichment program and demanded easing of the sanct