Larijani and Solana are expected to examine whether there is a possibility to reopen negotiations in the hope of finding a diplomatic solution to the standoff over Iran's controversial nuclear activities.
No Sign Of Compromise...
Ahead of the talks, Tehran has given no sign it is prepared to halt uranium-enrichment activities, as demanded by the European Union, the United States, and the UN Security Council.
The West is concerned that Iran could use its enrichment activities for military purposes. Iran says all of its nuclear activities are peaceful and that under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), it has the right to enrich uranium.
On April 23, hard-line Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad reiterated that Iran will continue its disputed nuclear activities. But he described the talks between Larijani and Solana as useful and said they could remove ambiguities.
"We think talks between Ali Larijani, the respectable secretary of Iran's Supreme National Council, and Mr. Solana, are very useful and will help to clear up issues and reach a legal and correct solution and also remove problems and help resume useful cooperation in different areas," he said.
Iran's defiance and its refusal to halt sensitive nuclear work leaves little hope that today's talks will lead to any breakthrough. On April 23, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett played down expectations of progress in Ankara and, when asked whether she had seen any optimistic signs ahead of the talks, she replied "not really."
...Or A Glimmer Of Hope?
Yet some analysts, including Shahram Chubin, the director of studies at the Geneva Center for Security Policy, believe that Iran might show some flexibility.
Does Larijani have the backing of Supreme Leader Khamenei? (epa file photo)
"The United States wants to engage Iran, not just on the nuclear issue but also on regional issues like Iraq," Chubin said. "The Iranians, I think, after two Security Council resolutions and a lot of informal sanctions that are beginning to bite slowly on Iran, realize they've gotten into a process from which it may be very difficult to get out and therefore their premature announcement that they have industrial-scale-enrichment capability was intended to set down a marker to the West to say that 'look we have this capability and we want this minimum capability but we may be flexible about not going further.'"
On April 23, former senior Iranian diplomat Sadegh Kharrazi was quoted by the "Financial Times" as saying that Larijani was given "the authority for compromise" over Iran's nuclear program in talks with the EU in Turkey. Kharrazi, a former ambassador to Paris, reportedly signaled that Larijani has been given the backing of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate authority in Iran.
Today's talks will be the first face-to-face meeting between Larijani and Solana since a second set of United Nations sanctions were imposed on Iran last month.
The meeting also comes two days after EU foreign ministers passed a regulation implementing the UN sanctions, including a ban on Iranian arms exports and the freezing of the financial assets of 28 additional individuals and organizations.
Chubin told Radio Farda that the Europeans are hoping for a diplomatic solution instead of a military resolution and have been pursuing that track along with sanctions.
"They clearly are not too happy with this process where they might be losing control in a sense; that there'd be a two-month deadline and then another Security Council resolution," Chubin said. "Also they're not happy about tightening economic credits and eventually perhaps eliminating trade with Iran. They're not happy about that, countries such as Germany and others who have significant trade relations [with Iran]. So they would like to see this thing resolved and they're much more flexible as to how much enrichment to allow Iran with the exception of Britain, which is close to the United States."
On April 24, the U.S. State Department denied a report that the United States and other world powers are willing to consider a compromise centered on an Iranian proposal that would let Tehran continue some enrichment activities.
(Radio Farda broadcaster Fariba Mavadat contributed to this report.)