Following consultations with the six world powers whom she will represent – the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – Ashton wrote to Saeed Jalili accepting the offer of a meeting on December 5 but suggested Switzerland or Austria as the venue, Ashton’s spokeswoman said.
Jalili had written to Ashton this week offering a meeting on either November 23 or December 5 in Istanbul, Turkey.
“After further discussions with the E3+3 partners, Catherine Ashton has responded to the Iranian authorities today and has agreed to their proposal to begin talks on December 5,” a spokeswoman for Ashton said in a statement. “Ashton’s preference is that the first meeting takes place somewhere else in Europe and has proposed Austria or Switzerland.”
EU diplomats have said, if a venue is agreed, the talks could last for up to three days, with representatives of each of the six major powers present.
In her letter to Jalili, seen by Reuters, Ashton proposes a dinner on December 5 followed by a day of discussions on December 6 and a conclusion at midday on December 7
In letters since July, Jalili has called for Ashton first to state her position on the nuclear weapons of “the Zionist regime,” a reference to Israel, which does not confirm or deny that it has atomic arms.
If talks are agreed – they have been under discussion for nearly six months – it would be the first time in more than a year that Iran has met to discuss its nuclear program.
However Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reiterated that Iran will not negotiate over its right to develop nuclear technology, but has not entirely closed the door to discussion of the uranium enrichment program.