It's time to abandon posturing on Iran

HAARETZ november 5, 2013

Seven former European ambassadors to Tehran: With a 10-year delay after Europe's lead, the United States and Iran are finally committed to serious talks. But they must move fast. 

As ambassadors to Tehran, we have all lived in Iran for several years. We are sure that the current nuclear negotiations between Tehran and six countries representing the international community can advance not only the cause of non-proliferation and stability in the Middle-East but also the everyday well-being of all the people in the region.

The direction these negotiations take will determine whether Iran’s situation will become even worse and its behavior more extreme, or whether it will make progress in welfare, civil liberties and human rights.

It is true that over the years the Iranian nuclear imbroglio has been a major impediment to any positive evolution. The most recent round of negotiations in Geneva showed that everyone is conscious of this and that everyone claims an intention to escape from the deadlock, but it showed as well that the hardest work lies ahead. Past experiences have left a deep divide of mutual mistrust between the parties: all should accept that trust is seldom present at the outset of a negotiation, but is a by-product of clear and verifiable agreements, faithfully implemented. If the parties can reach a good agreement and abide scrupulously by it, trust will blossom.

A good agreement is built on compromises. But it must also preserve essentials. For the international community, the critical point of the Iranian issue is that there should be an impassable barrier to weapons proliferation. For Iran, it lies in international recognition of its right to implement the main technologies of a major civil nuclear program. These two goals are legitimate.

If the negotiators were to fail to build an agreement on these bases, they would prejudice the future of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Non-Proliferation Treaty. These two cardinal instruments of world peace hold the keys to the solution of the Iranian nuclear crisis. To be faithful to those who have given them life and shape over the years, today’s negotiators have a duty to succeed.

And they should move fast, for at least three reasons. First, they would be well advised not to prolong needlessly the hardships inflicted on the Iranian people by international and bilateral sanctions. Second, it would be wise to remove as soon as possible by a good agreement the sincere and deep concerns of neighboring peoples, as in Israel and several Arab countries, about unchecked development of the Iranian nuclear program. Third, it would be good tactics to outpace those who, for various but converging motives, have started to mobilize in order to thwart any agreement with Iran.

Addressing ourselves to the Europeans who have been working on this issue for ten years, to the Americans who have at long last determined to take diplomacy in hand, and to the Iranians who have now set out seriously on the path of negotiation, we ask everyone to abandon posturing and time-wasting once and for all. We encourage you to negotiate firmly, concretely, and with a full intention to succeed. You cannot afford to disappoint the people of the region and beyond: they expect too much from you for that.

Richard Dalton (United Kingdom), Christofer Gyllenstierna (Sweden), Paul von Maltzahn (Germany), Guillaume Metten (Belgium), François Nicoullaud (France), Leopoldo Stampa (Spain), Roberto Toscano (Italy),

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