US and Iran gear up for landmark nuclear talks


Fri, Sep 27, 2013 - Page 1

With the eyes of the world upon them, the US and Iran were yesterday to have one of their highest-level meetings since the 1979 revolution as their foreign ministers join talks on Tehran’s suspect nuclear program.

And while officials are saying that no bilateral talks are planned between US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart, Mohammed Javad Zarif, there remains the chance for a quick tete-a-tete in the corridor.

Zarif will be the first Iranian foreign minister to sit down with his counterparts from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the US — plus Germany to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.

However, the Iranian delegation will only join part of the talks being hosted by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, and no one is keen to raise hopes of a breakthrough in the dragging negotiations.

Indeed the encounter with European, Russian and Chinese foreign ministers is set to be brief.

It comes after speculation that new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani would meet or at least shake hands with US President Barack Obama at the UN fizzled out.

However, diplomats said yesterday’s meeting would give them the first chance to take the measure of the new Iranian leadership, which took office last month.

And they insist it will give the Iranians the opportunity to prove there is some substance behind Rouhani’s charm offensive, and his claims that Iran is only seeking to pursue a peaceful civilian nuclear energy program.

Ashton, who has led Western efforts to engage with Tehran, said this week she was “struck by the energy and determination” of Zarif.