Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi during nuclear talks in Geneva
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi during nuclear talks in Geneva. Photo by AFP
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Reuters
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton at Geneva P5+1 talks Photo by Reuters

GENEVA - The first day of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers in Geneva ended Tuesday with both sides expressing optimism over the conduct of the negotiations and a sense of real progress that was missing in their last round of discussions a few months ago.

The Iranians and the representatives of the world powers appeared to be in consensus, at least during briefings to the press, and released coordinated statements describing the talks as serious, effective and constructive.

A spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is overseeing the talks, canceled the planned briefing to reporters and instead released a short but positive statement regarding the first day of the talks.

"It was useful to hear from the Iranian side what they envisage," the spokesman, Michael Mann, said. "But there's still an awful lot of work to be done."

Mann said that mood was one of "cautious optimism" but that the "ball is in Iran's court" to respond to the bloc's concerns.

"We have said we want Iran to engage constructively with proposals we have put forward. Or, if they want to, they can come up with their own proposals," he said. "What matters is the end result -- that they address the international community's concerns about the purely peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program.

"We have to reach a situation at the end where they have proven, and verifiably proven, that there is no nuclear military program. That is the end result that is being sought."

He later tweeted that "for the first time, very detailed technical discussions continued this afternoon between [the six powers] and Iran on the Iranian nuclear program."

A senior American official participating in the talks released a short statement identical to Mann's.

The White House warned against expecting quick results, saying the discussions are complex and technical and that economic pressures against Teheran would remain in place.

"We certainly want to make clear that no one, despite the positive signs that we've seen, no one should expect a breakthrough overnight," White House spokesman Jay Carney said at a briefing.

"Although we appreciate the recent change in tone from the Iranian government on this issue, we will be looking for specific steps that address core issues," he added.

The Iranian statements at the end of the day were similar. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said it was "too soon to judge" whether progress had been made toward resolving the decade-long stand-off.

"They went well," Araqchi said of the talks. "We had very constructive, very good exchange of views, very serious. It was, I can say, very businesslike."

Iran presented the six world powers during the meetings with a power-point proposal named "Ending unnecessary crisis – opening new horizons." 

Araqchi told Iranian reporters that the first stage of the Iranian proposal, which would include trust-building steps, could be carried our within the next two months and even possibly before the end of the year.

The head of the U.S. negotiating team, Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, met Araqchi on Tuesday evening. The meeting was held at the UN Palais des Nations and lasted about an hour. An American official said that the meeting was similar to those held by the Iranians with other delegations.

"The discussion was useful, and we look forwardto continuing our discussions in tomorrow's meetings with the full P5+1and Iran," a senior U.S. official said.

The meeting between the two picked up the direct contacts first held between Iran and the U.S. on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, when Secretary of State John Kerry met his Iranian counterpart. That encounter was followed by President Barack Obama's telephone call to Iranian President Hassan Rohani. The talks between Sherman and Araqchi was the first time, however, that representatives of Iran and U.S. will be holding an official meeting.