|Chief Iranian, U.S. diplomats hold private meeting||
TEHRAN – Iran and the United States held their highest-level official talks since the 1979 Islamic Revolution when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met on the sidelines of a larger meeting over Iran’s nuclear program in New York on Thursday.
It was a very rare meeting between top officials of the two countries, which cut diplomatic relations shortly after Iran’s Islamic Revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed shah.
According to Reuters, it was the first meeting between a U.S. secretary of state and an Iranian foreign minister since a brief encounter in May 2007.
After the private meeting which lasted for 30 minutes, Zarif told Al-Monitor, “I’m optimistic. I have to be. Political leaders need to be optimistic about the future and make every commitment to go forward for the cause of peace. This was a good beginning. I sense that Secretary Kerry and President [Barack] Obama want to resolve this.”
According to the U.S. Department of State, Kerry said that during the meeting “we took a moment to explore a little further the possibilities of how to proceed based on what President Obama laid out in his speech to the General Assembly earlier this week. And so we’ve agreed to try to continue a process that we’ll try to make concrete, to find a way to answer the questions that people have about Iran’s nuclear program.”
In an address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Obama said, “We are encouraged that President [Hassan] Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course. Given President Rouhani’s stated commitment to reach an agreement, I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort with the Iranian government, in close coordination with the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China.”
Iran has been holding talks with the six major powers, namely the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany, which are known as the P5+1 group, over its nuclear program, which Tehran says is solely for peaceful purposes but the West suspects may be aimed at developing nuclear weapons.
Earlier on Thursday, Zarif participated in a meeting with foreign ministers of the 5+1 group, which was chaired by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who leads global talks with Tehran on its nuclear program.
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