Foreign ministers of China, United States, Russia, France, Britain and Germany gathered Monday evening in New York to exchange views on the Iranian nuclear issue. The six-party conference was convened after the five permanent members of the UN Security Council failed to reach agreement on the draft resolution proposed on May 3 by Britain and France. What a kind of result would the FM consultation produce? All interested parties are watching closely.
The meeting reportedly lasted two hours, rather than the scheduled 45 minutes, but made no progress on a unified position. According to U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, foreign ministers of the six major powers mainly focused on "questions at strategic plane" and didn't touch much the draft resolution now under Security Council discussion. The spokesman perhaps intended to play down the great differences among the six countries on the Britain-France proposal, but his words may run counterproductive.
The Iranian nuclear issue displayed recently no sign of getting eased, but a trend of escalating into a crisis. On March 29, the Security Council passed a presidential statement calling on Iran to stop uranium enrichment activities. But Iran answered by declaring the production of a small amount of enriched uranium and conducting a sizeable military drill near the Straits of Hormuz, the "energy lifeline" of the West. While refusing direct talks with Iran, Washington is busily seeking for UN adoption of sanction against Iran, declaring that plans of military strike "have been put on the table".
The Britain-France proposal, believing that the Iranian nuclear program endangers world peace and security, requires the Security Council to take further measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter if Iran refuses to cooperate. The draft didn't elaborate on the "further measures", but according to Chapter 7, when world peace is threatened or aggression occurs, mandatory measures, including military means, can be taken. Therefore this serves no less than an ultimatum to Iran: force will be used once diplomatic efforts fail.
This draft resolution of intimidation met strong opposition from members of the Security Council. Russia, for example, has been insisting on "major revision" on it, opposing the language of international sanctions or even the use of force under UN Charter.
China consistently stands for safeguarding the international anti-proliferation regime and maintaining peace and stability in the Middle East region. China is convinced that related resolutions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the presidential statement of the UN Security Council should be earnestly implemented, and hopes that Iran can fully cooperate with IAEA so as to clarify some unsettled questions. Under current circumstances, the Chinese side hopes, the international community can stick to diplomatic negotiations to solve the issue peacefully, and all parities involved should remain calm and exercise restraint to create necessary conditions and atmosphere so that talks can be resumed.
It is quite obvious that China and Russia share a common ground in opposing sanctions or the use of force against Iran.
The key of the nuclear issue lies in whether Iran and the U.S.--the opposing two sides--can make concessions. By now, both parties remain stiff-necked despite Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's letter to George W. Bush. The clash between Iran and the U.S., on the surface, is that Iran insists on its right to peaceful use of nuclear energy and denies any plan to develop nuclear weapons, while the U.S. accuses Iran of seeking for nuke weaponry and doesn't allow it possession of nuclear technology. But the root lies in conflicts between different values and strategic interests, which is also the reason behind ceaseless disputes since the two countries severed ties 26 years ago.
At the moment, the basic point of U.S. policy is to topple the Iranian regime via sanction or force. Therefore it is quite possible that the U.S. goes alone or with Britain and France, if Iran still refuses to yield, although the Security Council can hardly pass sanction in short term due to Chinese and Russian opposition.
The author Liu Shuiming is senior editor of People's Daily Overseas Edition.