ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE: The United States is ready to engage in talks “on the basis of mutual respect” with Iran about its disputed nuclear programme as long as Tehran is willing to demonstrate that its programme is for civilian purposes, a White House spokesman said yesterday.
“We have had a number of engagements with the Iranians and we’ll continue to have conversations on the basis of mutual respect,” Josh Earnest, the deputy White House spokesman, told reporters aboard Air Force One.
“And over the course of those conversations there will be an opportunity for the Iranians to demonstrate through actions the seriousness with which they are pursuing this endeavour,” Earnest said.
US President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rowhani will be in New York next week for a meeting of the UN General Assembly. The White House has said an encounter between the two is possible.
Earnest said there was no meeting scheduled between Obama and Rouhani next week.
The New York Times reported yesterday that Iran sought a “swift agreement” over its nuclear programme with the goal of ending sanctions that have devastated its economy.
Earnest, responding to that story, said the White House welcomed the new tone from Tehran after Rowhani’s election in June and said sanctions had had their desired effect.
“These sanctions have tightened around the Iranian regime, further isolated them from the international community, taken a significant toll on their economy and put pressure on them to come back to the bargaining table,” he said.
“The president has demonstrated a willingness to engage with the Iranians, and has done that for some time now,” he added, noting that Obama and Rouhani had exchanged letters.
In an opinion piece published in the Washington Post on Thursday, the centrist cleric said nations needed to seek “win-win outcomes” instead of using “brute force” to combat terrorism, extremism, cybercrime and other challenges.
“Gone is the age of blood feuds,” he wrote. “World leaders are expected to lead in turning threats into opportunities.”
Rowhani said the people of the Middle East should be allowed to decide their own fate. He said he was ready to help in Syria, where government forces and rebels have fought a civil war for two and a half years. Iran has supported Syrian President Bashar Al Assad with weapons and other military aid.
“I announce my government’s readiness to help facilitate dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition,” Rowhani wrote.