The two days of nuclear talks that were held in Kazakhstan between Iran and the six world powers have failed, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Saturday.
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Ashton, who held the negotiations on behalf of the P5+1 powers – the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – released a statement at the conclusion of talks.
"Over two days of talks we had long and intensive discussions on the issues addressed in our confidence-building proposal," Ashton told a news conference in the Kazakh city of Almaty, where the negotiations took place.
"It became clear that our positions remain far apart," she said.
Ashton said that the talks ended without even an agreement on another round of talks. She noted that in the coming weeks she will be in close contact with the head of Iran's negotiating team, Saeed Jalili, in order to examine the possibility of more talks.
In an official response, Israel said it had expected the talks to fail.
"Iran is using the talks with the West to pave its way to a nuclear bomb," Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a statement. "The time has come for the world to take a tougher stance and make it clear to Iran once and for all that these negotiation games are approaching an end."
Meanwhile, Interfax reported that the Russian negotiator Sergey Ryabkov said that the Iran nuclear talks were "definitely a step forward" but noted that no compromise was reached.
But a senior U.S. official said there had been no breakdown in the negotiations with Iran.
"There was no breakthrough but also no breakdown," the official, who declined to be identified, said. "Our intention is to proceed," he said, referring to a U.S. commitment to further diplomatic efforts.
Jalili said on Saturday there was some distance between the positions of Tehran and world powers but its disputed uranium enrichment could be a subject for confidence-building cooperation.
"We proposed our plan of action and the other party was not ready and they asked for some time to study the idea," Jalili told a news conference. He said it was now up to the powers to demonstrate willingness to take confidence-building steps.
The six nations suspect Iran's nuclear program has the covert aim of giving Tehran the capability to make an atom bomb. The Islamic Republic denies it is seeking nuclear weapons and says it wants nuclear power for electricity generation and medical purposes.