World powers resume crisis talks with Iran on Monday in hopes that a crippling oil embargo will finally force the Islamic Republic to scale back its nuclear drive.
The two-day meeting follows a bruising May session in Baghdad during which Iran nearly walked out of negotiations aimed ultimately at keeping it from joining the exclusive club of nations with an atomic bomb.
Host Russia however is keen to flex its diplomatic muscle and make Iran an example of how Moscow's influence over Soviet-era partners could be used to avoid foreign military intervention in the 16-month crisis raging in Syria.
“There are reasons to believe that the next step will be taken in Moscow,” Russia's Deputy Foreign Sergei Ryabkov said Friday. “It is important for Russia to ensure that the negotiating process continues.”
Failure in Moscow could leave the process in tatters and raise the threat of air raids from arch-foe Israel — a fateful scenario in which broader conflict would lead to a spike in oil prices that could tip over the world's teetering economy.
But a July 1 deadline for a full EU oil embargo and the June 28 rollout of US sanctions against a host of Iranian oil clients is providing added incentive for Tehran to bargain more seriously.
Two of the biggest bones of contention involve the speed with which world powers lift existing sanctions and the recognition of Iran’s “right to enrich”.
The latter is emerging as a key demand that Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili is likely to present to Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief who represents the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany at the talks.
“We expect that Iran’s right to nuclear technologies, including uranium enrichment, will be recognised and respected,” Jalili said. Iran for its part “has the capacities to cooperate in disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, so these capacities should be used by the international community,” he added.