Russia is hopeful that negotiations between the P5+1 group (the UN Security Council's five permanent members plus Germany) and Iranian officials will mark a shift from opinion exchanges to concrete decisions in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Feb. 26.
"We are approaching the moment when we will have to make different decisions. In any case, we would like all participants in the Almaty talks to share this understanding of the specifics of this moment," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Interfax.
"Earlier we offered a plan that envisioned gradual and mutual measures. The concept of this plan currently forms the core of the P5+1 group's position, which favors balanced and mutual steps that accommodate the sides' needs. Iranians proposed their own ideas. They conducted lengthy and voluminous presentations of these ideas during the previous rounds. They also shared their documents with us," he said.
"As a matter of fact, we are divided over the order of these steps, their nature, quality and contents. Real talks will begin only when we start both to explain why the order of measures proposed by us is more correct and try to build upon what we have in common. I hope that a start to them will be given in Almaty," Ryabkov said.
Asked whether the P5+1 group will again urge Iran to stop producing 20 percent enriched uranium, allow the existing stockpiles of this uranium to be taken out of the country and shut down the Fordow nuclear facility, Ryabkov said that "we cannot review the requirements set by resolutions of the UN Security Council and the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] Board of Governors."
"In our opinion, these demands are fair and legitimate, especially in the absence of signs pointing to Iran's readiness to meet them. We see no reason to scrap them," he said.
"We will continue tackling the previously set tasks, but we will also try to hold these talks using somewhat new materials. There can be different ways to achieve the same goals. The approach the P5+1 group will present in Almaty should be more appealing to Iran than the previous one," Ryabkov said.
"I have reasons to hope that Iranians will not be able to dispute the fact that the P5+1 group has already made certain efforts in this area," the Russian diplomat said.
"Despite the seemingly absolute outward hopelessness of the situation, both the P5+1 group and Iranians still have managed to accomplish certain preparations since last June," he said.
"We are approaching the Almaty round holding different cards in our hands. Certainly, it would be wrong to say that we have been dealt totally different cards. But it will not be a repeat of the previous round," Ryabkov said.
"However, the chance of repeating the developments of the previous round is really high. It is becoming a political factor that will not influence the atmosphere in the best way," he said.
"But, on the other hand, certain steps forward have been taken," Ryabkov said.
"Any talks that require the adoption of decisions test the sides 'political will," the Russian diplomat said.
All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.