The US is ready and willing to negotiate directly with Iran over its nuclear program “quickly” – but no such talks have yet been scheduled, and are unlikely before the United Nations General Assembly in New York at the end of the month.
National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan told The Jerusalem Post that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration presents an “opportunity” for dialogue on the matter of Iran’s nuclear program, should Iran choose to change its position “quickly.”
“Should this new government choose to engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue,” Meehan said, “it will find a willing partner in the United States.”
The US and Iran have not engaged in bilateral talks on the program, but the US has maintained an indirect channel to address regional matters.
“We have conveyed our views regarding Syria and the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons to the Iranian leadership through the Swiss, our protecting power in Tehran,” Meehan said. “This is a channel we have available to us to convey our views on a range of regional security matters.”
While US officials will be carefully watching Rouhani’s speech at the General Assembly – it will be his first, and whether the US delegation chooses to walk out, as it did repeatedly during president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s tenure, is considered by US officials a significant diplomatic decision – few expect a bilateral meeting between Rouhani’s team and its US counterpart.
“I am not going to get into hypotheticals at this time on when those talks will be,” a State Department official told the Post, citing deep and consistent concerns over the progress of the nuclear program.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported a letter exchange between US President Barack Obama and Rouhani in recent weeks, “tentatively laying the groundwork for potential face-to-face talks between the two governments.”
The Post could not confirm the letter exchange independently.
On Wednesday, Iran’s new envoy to the United Nations’ nuclear agency said that his government is prepared to work toward “overcome existing issues once and for all” over its nuclear program, while adding that Iran would never forfeit its right to peaceful nuclear energy.
Rouhani said on Tuesday that the time for resolving Iran’s nuclear dispute with the West was limited, and urged the world to seize the opportunity of his election.
He said he would meet with the foreign ministers from some of the six powers – Russia, China, France, Britain, the United States and Germany– when he attends the General Assembly.