UNITED NATIONS — After meeting one-on-one with Iran’s foreign minister, Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday he is pleased with a new positive tone from Iran on talks over its nuclear program.
But, he said, one meeting with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is not going to resolve international concerns about Iran’s nuclear intentions. Kerry said Thursday that Iran had to demonstrate its willingness to come clean about its nuclear program with actions.
Kerry spoke after he and the foreign ministers from the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany met with Zarif on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Kerry and Zarif then met privately for a short time.
Iran’s foreign minister also commented on the talks, calling them “very constructive” and “very substantive” and saying he hopes to allay any concern that Tehran’s nuclear activities are not peaceful.
Zarif made clear Thursday that his country is hoping through negotiations to win a complete lifting of international sanctions imposed on Iran over its disputed nuclear activities.
He said he wants to see progress in a short time.
“We hope to be able to make progress to solve this issue in a timely fashion,” he said.
The meeting between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group of world powers was meant to test the Islamic Republic’s apparent willingness to reach a deal to resolve international concerns about its nuclear program after years of defiance.
European diplomats echoed Kerry’s comments after the meeting, saying they were pleased by Iran’s new tone and attitude.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the meeting was “substantial.” She said they had agreed to “go forward with an ambitious timeframe” and that senior negotiators would meet in Geneva on October 15-16.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said there had been a “big improvement in the tone and spirit” from Zarif compared with representatives of the previous Iranian government.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the meeting had taken place in a “completely different tone, atmosphere and spirit” than what the group was used to and that a “window of opportunity has opened” for a peaceful resolution of the situation. He warned, though, that Iran’s words would have to be matched by actions.
“Words are not enough,” he said. “Actions and tangible results are what counts. The devil is in the detail, so it is now important that we have substantial and serious negotiations very soon.”
The meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly marked the highest-level direct contact between the United States and Iran in six years as Secretary of State John Kerry came face-to-face with Zarif and sat next to him at a U-shaped table.
As the P-5+1 group met for an upper-level meeting on the Iranian nuclear program, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivered a perplexing message on the nature of Iran’s nuclear program during a tlak at the Council for Foreign Relations.
“We are committed to working towards not producing a nuclear bomb,” the Iranian leader who has been one of the most sought-after interviewees at the United Nations General Assembly told his CFR members. The double negative left room for interpretation, possibly implying that Iran has an active weapons program and that an effort will need to be made in order to stop Teheran from achieving a nuclear weapon.
“We will leave no stone unturned to work toward a mutually acceptable solution,” Rouhani continued, adding that “we will work with P5+1 in order to achieve full transparency under international law.” That same law, he reiterated, also gave Iran the “right” to engage in uranium enrichment for civilian purposes.
“If we can settle the nuclear debate it will be a good beginning for a better future that will benefit everyone,” Rouhani concluded his talk, which largely reiterated the main topics that he has discussed since arriving in New York.