July 24, 2012 - 15:14 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Senior European and Iranian diplomats were set to meet in Istanbul on Tuesday, July 24 to seek common ground on Tehran's disputed nuclear drive, officials said.
The meeting will be held at a secret location and closed to the press, said Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, according to AFP.
An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, told a press briefing in Tehran: "The goal is to bring the positions of Iran and the P5+1 closer together," referring to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.
"We must wait for the outcome of the meeting," he added.
The P5+1 has asked Iran to immediately stop enriching uranium to the high level of 20 percent, to ship out its existing 20 percent stock and to shut down a fortified underground enrichment facility.
Tuesday's talks between the two high-ranking diplomats, Helga Schmid and Ali Bagheri, were announced on July 4 following a technical meeting in Istanbul.
The two have been in regular contact as global powers seek to reach an understanding with Iran over its disputed nuclear program, Schmid working with the EU and Bagheri assisting chief Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili.
Their meeting will be followed by a "contact" between Ashton, who is leading negotiations with Iran in the name of the P5+1, and Jalili, according to a spokesman for Ashton, Michael Mann.
The P5+1 and Iran made no breakthroughs in the row in talks in Moscow held June 18 and 19.
But a meeting of experts here in early July staved off a total breakdown of the diplomatic process, with Russia citing "certain progress."
Iran insists it has a right to uranium enrichment under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which it says should be recognized by the P5+1. It also wants Western sanctions punishing its economy to be eased.
Enriching uranium to 20 percent purity is just a technical step short of the 90 percent needed to make nuclear bombs.