A statement read by Ashton to reporters on behalf of both sides said the talks were “substantive and forward looking.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, Moscow’s chief negotiator, was more sparing with praise, describing the meeting as “better than many people thought, but worse than what we hoped for.”
A key six-power concern is enrichment, which can create both reactor fuel and weapons-grade material suitable for a nuclear bomb. Iran currently runs over 10,000 centrifuges which have created tons of fuel-grade material that can be further enriched to arm nuclear warheads. That’s a relatively slow process with such reactor-grade material.
But Tehran also has nearly 440 pounds of higher-enriched uranium in a form that can be turned into weapons much more quickly. Experts say 550 pounds of 20 percent-enriched uranium are needed to produce a single warhead.
With no details disclosed, it was unclear whether Iran had moved toward meeting any of the six-power demands left from the last round of talks in April. These include:
Suspension of enrichment above reactor fuel-grade levels
Freezing of enrichment at an underground bunker believed impervious to airstrikes
No new centrifuge installations
Placing uranium stockpiles under strict U.N. supervision and shipping out most of the higher-enriched uranium closest to weapons-grade
In exchange, the six — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — had offered some sanctions relief, but not on oil exports, Iran’s main cash cow.
Iranian state TV, which closely reflects government views, said Tehran offered to discuss uranium enrichment levels. The report also said Iran proposed adopting the additional protocols of the U.N.’s nuclear treaty — effectively opening its nuclear facilities to wider inspection and monitoring — if the West recognizes Iran’s right to enrich uranium.
But Zarif said implementing the protocols was not an issue “at this stage.”