"Sometimes I think that neither side understands each other," said one Iranian official close to the talks. Western officials often expressed similar sentiments during previous rounds in Istanbul, Baghdad, and Moscow.
"The atmosphere is quite mixed," the Iranian official told the Monitor about the meeting. "Both sides want to show that the talks have some outcomes, even if it is [just] to set a date and venue for the next expert meeting."
This Istanbul meeting was agreed to during high-level political negotiations in Moscow last month between the EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represented the P5+1 group (comprised of the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany), and Saeed Jalili, Iran's top nuclear negotiator.
During the Moscow talks, neither side budged from their stringent demands of the other. Today the P5+1 group focused on its demand that Iran stop enriching uranium to 20 percent – which is a few steps from bomb-grade of 90 percent – and on closing a deeply buried enrichment facility at Fordow, where that level of enrichment occurs. Iran says there is no reason to close Fordow, which is under safeguards by inspectors of the UN nuclear watchdog agency but is largely impervious to bombing.