EU reaches out to Iran for negotiations

US State Department's Nuland says talks underway to set up P5+1 meeting, adds "door remains open to talks if they are serious."

Iran- P5+1 negotiations 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Government Spokesman Office/Handout)
Iran- P5+1 negotiations 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Government Spokesman Office/Handout)
WASHINGTON – A European Union representative spoke Wednesday with an Iranian counterpart to set up another round of talks between Tehran and world powers.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that a deputy to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton had spoken to an Iranian negotiator to set up a possible time and place to meet along with the rest of the so-called P5+1, which includes the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.
“We continue to make clear to the Iranian side that in that structure the door remains open to talks if they are serious,” Nuland said, including in a bilateral framework.
She indicated that she was not familiar with Israeli reports saying Washington had told Tehran it would hold separate one-on-one discussions with a four- to five-month timeframe without consulting with Israel.
But she stressed that Israel was “our ally and partner, and we consult with them regularly and are completely transparent.”
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Nuland also said the United States was talking openly with Israel about the latter’s actions toward the Palestinian Authority and the withholding of tax revenues in the wake of the Palestinians’ bid for partial recognition at the UN.
“We are making clear to the government of Israel that we think funding of the Palestinian Authority is necessary ,” she said. “It should work with the PA to address the issues that they have and that all sides need to take steps to reduce tensions, to build trust, to create the kind of climate that’s going to get us back to direct talks.”
Nuland also strongly denied rumors that the US had a backchannel to Hamas, a notion that has been circulating amid third-party ceasefire talks between Hamas and Israel in the wake of last month’s violence in Gaza.
“There have been some bizarre claims out there that Hamas has a backchannel to the US government,” Nuland said. “These assertions are completely untrue. There is no such backchannel.”
She added that the American position on Hamas had not changed and that the fiery comments made recently during Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal’s visit to Gaza reinforced the fact that Hamas “is not a partner for peace.”
Unless Hamas “unambiguously” accepts the Quartet principles that it recognize Israel, respect previous agreements and renounce violence, she declared, “it cannot be a partner in any negotiations.”