UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon Meets With Iranian President Hassan Rowhani
UNITED NATIONS: Iran’s new government began its first talks on its nuclear programme with the US and five other world powers yesterday, with the Iranian foreign minister taking a seat next to US Secretary of State John Kerry in a rare high-level contact between the two long-estranged nations.
Mohammad Javad Zarif went into talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly with Kerry as well as his counterparts from Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany at a session aimed at jump-starting efforts to resolve a decade-long stand-off over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
It was a very uncommon encounter between top officials of the US and Iran, which have been estranged since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the US-backed Shah.
Yesterday’s meeting was the first between a US secretary of state and an Iranian foreign minister since a brief encounter in May 2007.
Ahead of the talks, Kerry said he looked forward to a “good meeting” — the first involving the newly elected government of centrist President Hassan Rowhani — but would not specify what Iran should do to show a genuine desire to address concerns about its nuclear programme.
A US State Department official said Washington did not expect any issues to be resolved at the meeting, but added: “We are hopeful that we can continue to chart a path forward. We hope that this new Iranian government will show that it is prepared to engage substantively to address these long- standing concerns and we will see today and in months ahead whether they will follow words with action.”
Zarif is a US-educated diplomat appointed by Rowhani to head negotiations on the nuclear issue with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, known as the P5+1.
Rowhani has stepped up efforts to moderate Iran’s image abroad during his visit to New York this week. He has said Iran would never develop nuclear weapons and called for a nuclear deal in three to six months. Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful energy purposes.
Addressing a UN meeting on nuclear disarmament, Rowhani said: “No nation should possess nuclear weapons, since there are no right hands for these wrong weapons.” He said Israel, widely assumed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear-armed state, was the reason for the failure of global efforts to establish the region as a nuclear weapons-free zone.
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