Interview with the Iranian Agency IRNA (January, 2011)

A few days before the meeting of Istanbul, François Nicoullaud, former French ambassador in Tehran (2001-2005), answers questions of the IRNA bureau in Paris.

Having in mind the oncoming meeting in Istanbul, how do you analyze the atmosphere surrounding the revival of the dialogue?

I am personally fairly optimistic about the outcome of the Istanbul meeting. There have been positive declarations on both sides, which indicate a desire to get out of the present deadlock of the nuclear file. And the tone of exchanges between the parties has been rather moderate. Each side seems to have understood the necessity of behaving carefully in order to give a chance to this negotiation. 

What do you think about the results of the previous discussions, especially in Geneva?

The meeting of October 2009 in Geneva raised big hopes. An agreement seemed feasible around the idea of exchanging Iranian low enriched uranium for the nuclear fuel needed for the Tehran Research reactor. But people opposed to such an agreement have been able to stop it.  There was again some hope after the intervention of Turkey and Brazil in May 2010. But this time again, we have been disappointed. Nevertheless the initiative of these two countries gave a new impetus to the discussions. Thanks mainly to this initiative, a new meeting took place in Geneva in december 2010, opening the way to the Istanbul encounter.

But how this new meeting could lead to a positive result for both parties? What is the formula for a “win-win” agreement?

As in every negotiation, each party must accept to make a few steps towards the other in order to reach a compromise. Recently, Mrs. Hillary Clinton hinted in Manama that the Iranian enrichment activities could be considered acceptable if Iran could generate full confidence on the peaceful nature of its nuclear program. On such a base, there is a possibility to build an agreement. I believe that Iran, without sacrificing its sovereign rights on nuclear energy, could still offer some additional guarantees in this field. Other great nations having important peaceful nuclear programs have accepted to give such guarantees to the international community.  Therefore, Iran would not be humiliated or discriminated if it chose to go along the same way. In exchange, its right to develop an ambitious peaceful nuclear program could be fully recognized and Iran could benefit from an active international cooperation in support of such a program. This would be the perfect example of a “win-win” agreement.

Do you believe that it will be finally possible to reach a satisfactory solution about the Iranian peaceful nuclear activities?

Yes, the moment is now more favorable than ever, since everybody has had ample time to meditate upon all the drawbacks of the present deadlock. But one has also to remember from previous experience that it is very easy to derail such a complex process of negotiation, still quite fragile. Cautiousness and restraint will be necessary to create the most favorable atmosphere for the work of the negotiators.

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