Iran nuclear talks end on optimistic note, but without a clear path

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
October 17, 2013

Iran nuclear talks end to mixed reviews, Turkey’s Syria policy threatens its national security, and Laos plane crash investigated. Today is Thursday, October 17, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif addresses a news conference following nuclear negotiations with European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is leading talks with Iran on behalf of the six world powers, at the United Nations in Geneva, October 16, 2013. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

Nuclear talks conclude. American leaders described two days of nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers as the most open and honest ever, but stopped short of saying that tangible progress was made:

Details of Iran’s proposal, presented during two days of negotiations in Geneva, have not been released, and Western officials were unsure whether Tehran was prepared to go far enough to clinch a breakthrough deal. The joint statement [between Iran, the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China] read out by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif “presented an outline of a plan as a proposed basis for negotiation” and the talks were “substantive and forward looking,” without elaborating. Zarif, who is also Iran’s chief negotiator, said Tehran looked to a new era in diplomatic relations after a decade of tension, in which concerns about the Islamic state’s nuclear ambitions fuelled fears of a new war in the Middle East.

Iran hinted it was ready to scale back nuclear operations in exchange for relief from harsh sanctions, which have crippled the Iranian economy. Western leaders hope that Iran will reduce its uranium stockpiles, cease enriching uranium up to 20 percent, and offer more transparency of its program overall to assuage fears that Iran is working to develop nuclear capability – a claim it has repeatedly denied. Diplomats report that Western leaders are resigned to Iran’s commitment to uranium enrichment. Russia said the talks were promising, while Israel on Wednesday pressed the U.S. and its allies to maintain economic sanctions until they have evidence that Tehran is dismantling its nuclear program. According to a report in the Washington Post, Turkey exposed an Israeli spy unit gathering intelligence in Iran with up to ten Iranians in 2012, causing what one source called a “significant” loss of intelligence. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans on meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over Iran’s nuclear program next week. Follow-up talks between Iran and the six world powers are scheduled for November 7-8 in Geneva.

Free Syrian Army fighters take positions behind a damaged car as they fire their weapons during an offensive against forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo’s Salaheddine neighborhood, October 9, 2013. REUTERS/Malek Alshemali

Ankara at risk. Turkey’s open-door policy, which has allowed Syrians to move freely across the shared border and the Free Syrian Army to organize on Turkish soil since Syria’s civil war began in March 2011, has led to a security threat for the country as al Qaeda grows in Syria’s north:

Turkey has long championed more robust backing for Syria’s fractious armed opposition, arguing it would bring a quicker end to Assad’s rule and give moderate forces the authority they needed to keep more radical Islamist elements in check. But with Islamist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) taking territory in parts of the north near the border in recent weeks, it is a strategy that increasingly looks to have been a miscalculation. Ankara has found itself facing accusations that indiscriminate support for the rebels has allowed weapons and foreign fighters to cross into northern Syria and facilitated the rise of radical groups.

Turkey officially denies arming rebels. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says suggestions that Turkey has helped militants in Syria lend legitimacy to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s claims that he is fighting radical groups.

Villagers look at debris and luggage retrieved from the crash site of an ATR-72 turboprop plane in Laos, near Pakse, October 17, 2013. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

Laos crash examined. Officials said bad weather may have caused a plane to crash in Laos yesterday, killing all 49 passengers on board:

A Lao Airlines official, who did not wish to be named, told Reuters that 44 passengers and five crew members were on Flight QV301 from the capital, Vientiane, to Pakse in the country’s south when it ran into bad weather. Earlier officials said a total of 44 passengers and crew had died in the crash. “Bad weather as the plane prepared for landing could be a factor in the crash. We understand there are no survivors but are still investigating,” she said. A senior aviation official said the tail end of Typhoon Nari may have been a factor. Southern Laos was affected by Typhoon Nari, which hit the region on Tuesday.

Typhoon Nari forced 122,000 Vietnamese to evacuate earlier this week.

Nota Bene: Syria’s deputy Prime Minister says “Geneva 2” peace talks will take place on November 23-24.

Standouts:

Rhinocechipped - Kenya plan on installing microchips in all of its rhinos. (BBC)

Blight fight - Artists want to paint every house in a slum of Rio de Janeiro. (The Atlantic Cities)

Rock of ages - Divers pulled one of the world’s largest meteorites from a lake in Russia. (Time)

Bear market - China loans out pandas in return for uranium. (Newsweek)

Avian spy - An eagle is detained on suspicion that it is spying for Israel. (Slate)

From the File:

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  • Bulgarian government survives second no-confidence vote.
  • Floods devastate already bankrupt and blood-soaked Acapulco.
  • Police arrest suspects after more bombs explode in Myanmar.
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