Iran and US signal optimism, caution after rare meeting
By Arshad Mohammed and Matt Spetalnick, ReutersUNITED NATIONS--Iran and the United States held their highest-level substantive talks in a generation on Thursday, saying the tone was positive but sounding cautious about resolving the long-running standoff over Iran's nuclear program.
September 28, 2013, 12:05 am TWN
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met after Zarif held wider talks with the United States and other major powers to address Western suspicions that Iran may be trying to develop atomic weapons.
Diplomats from the major countries described the atmosphere of the wider talks in positive terms, but they, as well as the U.S. and Iranian foreign ministers, stressed the difficulty of resolving a dispute that has eluded solution for a decade.
“We had a very constructive meeting,” Kerry told reporters after the talks at the United Nations, where he and Zarif had sat next to one another and shook hands, according to a senior U.S. official, in a gesture that suggested a desire by both sides to explore how to ease their more than three-decade estrangement.
But Kerry added, “Needless to say, one meeting and a change in tone, which was welcome, doesn't answer those questions yet and there is a lot of work to be done.”
The United States wants Iran to address questions about its nuclear program, which Washington and its allies suspect is a cover for developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies that, saying its program is for peaceful, civilian uses.
Zarif, a U.S.-educated diplomat, also sounded a cautionary note and insisted on quick relief from the painful U.S., European Union and U.N. sanctions imposed for Iran's refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program.
“I am satisfied with this first step. Now we have to see whether we can match our positive words with serious deeds so we can move forward,” he told reporters.
“Of course as we move forward, there has to be removal of sanctions and in the end game there has to be a total lifting of all sanctions and both bilateral sanctions, unilateral sanctions as well as multilateral sanctions and U.N. sanctions and we hope to be able to move in that direction within a short span of time.”
Kerry said Zarif had put some “possibilities” on the table, but stressed there was more work to be done.
US Seeks 'Verifiable' Process
A senior U.S. official said after the meeting that Iran had proposed fully implementing an agreement on its nuclear program within a year. The official added that while Zarif had offered suggestions, “there is a lot more to understand.”