Iranian media report that nuclear negotiations with the G5+1 at the expert level began on Monday March 18 in Istanbul, with both sides discussing the proposed packages.

The meeting in Istanbul was scheduled after the top delegates from the two parties met in Almaty, Kazakhstan in February after months of impasse. Both sides agreed that their technical experts would sit down in Istanbul to examine the details of their new proposals and prepare them for another top-level meeting in Almaty in April.

Reports indicate that Iran has been offered the prospect of relaxed international sanctions against the country in exchange for such confidence-building actions as suspending uranium enrichment at the 20 percent level and reducing activities at Iran’s Fordo nuclear site.

An Iranian diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told ISNA that sanctions would lifted in this order: first, sanctions on gold and precious metals; second, sanctions on petrochemical products, and later some sanctions on financial institutions. Next would be aeronautical repairs and parts.

The diplomat added, however, that there needs to be a better “balance” in the concessions given by the two sides, which will be addressed by the experts now meeting in Istanbul.

Iran’s Foreign Minister has expressed serious optimism about the outcome of the talks and has been quoted as saying that the sanctions will be removed in the coming year (The Iranian New Year begins on March 21.)

Iran’s Supreme Leader gave a rather lukewarm assessment of the talks, stressing that “one can evaluate the honesty of the West in the next meeting.”