US and Iran hold bilateral meeting in Geneva

State Department official describes the one-hour conference as ‘useful’; Obama administration doesn’t expect overnight breakthrough

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Delegates from the P5+1 and Iran meet in Geneva, at the start of two days of talks regarding Tehran's nuclear program, Tuesday, October 15, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Fabrice Coffrini)
Delegates from the P5+1 and Iran meet in Geneva, at the start of two days of talks regarding Tehran's nuclear program, Tuesday, October 15, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Fabrice Coffrini)

US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman held a meeting Tuesday with her Iranian counterpart Abbas Araghchi on the sidelines of nuclear negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran in Geneva, a State Department official confirmed.

The meeting lasted for approximately one hour, according to Israel Radio, and was scheduled in advance amid the diplomatic rapprochement between the two nations.

The US official described the talks as “useful,” but did not offer any details regarding the topics covered.

“As had been expected, Under Secretary Sherman and members of the US delegation held a bilateral meeting with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Araghchi and members of the Iranian delegation tonight, as the Iranians are doing with a number of delegations during these talks,” the senior State Department official was quoted as saying by the Al-Monitor news agency.

“The discussion was useful, and we look forward to continuing our discussions in tomorrow’s meetings with the full P5+1 and Iran,” he said.

A spokesman for the Iranian delegation told Israel Radio that P5+1 representatives were very impressed with Iran’s presentation earlier in the day, and that “no was speaking about war anymore except for Israel.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters in Washington, “After day one, we are hopeful that we will make progress in Geneva.” However US officials wanted to make clear that “despite the positive signs that we have seen, no one should expect a breakthrough overnight. These are very complicated issues, in some cases very technical issues,” Carney said, according to the Kuwait News Agency.

In a separate briefing, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “It certainly is positive that there was enough information to have technical discussions. Those are ongoing, and I suspect we will have more of a readout tomorrow.”

She added, “The issues are very complicated — and we have always said, and it remains the case today, that the Iranians need to follow their language and their words with substantive actions, and that is what the discussion is about right now,” reported KUNA.

Iran sat down with representatives of six world powers on Tuesday, presenting a proposal on how to end a nuclear standoff amid cautious optimism over a possible diplomatic solution.

The Iranian delegation, headed by Foreign Minister Javid Zarif, gave a PowerPoint presentation of its proposal to end the crisis, EU spokesman Michael Mann said from Geneva on Tuesday morning.

Mann added that the atmosphere in the talks, the first since the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, was different from that of the past.

“In previous rounds we did not see significant engagement from Iran,” he said.

The talks are being seen as a key test of Iran’s overtures to the West. The P5+1, comprised of the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, is eager to see whether Iran’s new style since Rouhani’s election will translate into progress on dispelling concerns over Tehran developing nuclear weapons.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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