In what she termed a “dual track approach,” European Union FM Catherine Ashton has insisted that the union is “open” to the idea of additional talks with Iran, in spite of the member nations focusing almost exclusively on imposing new sanctions on Iran.
Exactly how or even if these talks will take place, however, remains to be seen, as a series of mixed signals, veiled threats and high level demands have transformed the whole situation into a giant mess.
French President Sarkozy became the latest P5+1 leader to insist that “time is running out” before the West launches a war against Iran, but these threats (echoed by Britain and the US) appear to be mostly false, with French officials conceding earlier this week that the military option was considered “off the table.” Ashton is insisting the talks are just waiting for an Iranian response.
But the Iranian government has already expressed hope that the talks would resume “soon,” saying that they were waiting on Ashton to provide them with the exact date on venue of the potential talks. Since then there has been indications that both sides are leaning toward Istanbul for the talks, but Ashton seems to be pretending in her statement that these statements never happened.
Even then, exactly what the talks are liable to focus on is still a mystery, since the EU nations involved (France, Britain and Germany) are all insisting on a full halt of Iran’s civilian nuclear program, and Iran has already ruled that out.