European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (left) attends a new conference with Secretary of State Hillary …Top international Iran negotiator Catherine Ashton has written to Iran proposing new talks on its nuclear program as soon as possible. But Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, stresses in her letter to Iran's Saeed Jalili, the talks should initially focus on a confidence-building measure.
"At this stage, the main focus of efforts will have to be on building confidence by developing concrete and practical steps," Ashton wrote to Jalili, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, in a letter Tuesday.
"Therefore, looking forward to a sustained process of dialogue aimed at producing concrete results and in order not to repeat the experience of Istanbul, I would propose that we resume our talks at a mutually convenient date and venue as soon as possible," it says. Ashton suggests in her letters that their two deputies meet first to prepare for the next round of talks.
"We are willing to meet with Iran via the P5+1 because, as the president said yesterday, we still believe diplomacy coupled with strong pressure can achieve the long-term solution we seek," National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement Tuesday. "It will be up to Iran to demonstrate in those talks a similar commitment to allaying the concerns of the international community by building confidence through concrete and practical steps."
Under a proposed confidence-building measure that American diplomats have been quietly discussing with international partners, Iran would be asked to halt its 20 percent enrichment in exchange for a suspension of new U.N. Security Council sanctions.
The measure is seen as a more achievable, intermediate step that can help reduce the tremendous mistrust between Iran and the international community, explained Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Ashton's letter accepting new international talks with Iran comes as President Barack Obama has been meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week to try to persuade him to give more time for the diplomatic track with Iran to succeed.
Netanyahu, in his remarks to the pro-Israel lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Monday, indicated Israel's patience for more time for the diplomatic track with Iran is limited and wearing thin.
"I appreciate Obama's efforts to impose tough new economic sanctions on Iran," Netanyahu said in his remarks Monday to AIPAC. "But none of us can afford to wait much longer."
--With Olivier Knox, Yahoo! News' White House reporter.
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