EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton says she had a “useful” discussion with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili but announced no plans for a new round of negotiations.
Catherine Ashton, representing six world powers, said after the meeting May 15 in Istanbul that "we talked about the proposals we had put forward and we will now reflect on how to go on to the next stage of the process.”
She added, “We will be in touch shortly."
The latest meeting between Ashton and Jalili, who is running for president in Iran, followed a failed round of big power diplomacy in April in the Kazakh city of Almaty.
The two sides are reported to remain far apart.
The six world powers – the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany – want Iran to give up uranium enrichment and other controversial nuclear activities in exchange for relief from sanctions.
But Iran wants them to recognize its "right" to refine uranium and demands an end to the sanctions.
Earlier on May 15, Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) met in Vienna but were unable to reach an agreement that would allow international inspectors access to Iranian nuclear sites, documents, and officials.
IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts told reporters after meeting with Iran’s ambassador to the agency Ali Asghar Soltanieh that the two sides would keep trying.
"Intensive discussions today but we could not finalize the structured approach document that has been under negotiations for a year and-a-half now,” Nackaerts said.
“So our commitment to continue dialogue is unwavering, however we must recognize that our best efforts have not been successful so far. We will continue to try and complete this process and, as Ambassador Soltanieh said, a date for the next meeting is still to be set."
The meetings in Istanbul and Vienna come as Washington said it is looking at new ways to pressure Iran over its nuclear program.
Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington on May 15 that Washington will work to target additional sources of Iranian revenue including the petrochemical sector.
“With our colleagues at State [Department], we will maintain a robust outreach efforts to foreign governments and the private sector to explain our sanctions, to warn of the risks of doing business with Iran, and to encourage them to take complimentary steps,” he said.
Meanwhile, the United States has blacklisted two financial firms based in the United Arab Emirates for dealing with an Iranian bank blacklisted by Washington.
The Treasury Department said on May 15 that Al Hilal Exchange and Al Fida International General Trading had provided financial services to Bank Mellat.
The decision means U.S. citizens and companies are barred from dealing with the two firms.
Any assets held by those companies in the United States are now blocked.
Based on reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters