U.S. and Iran officials make diplomatic history

Barbara Slavin reports: The United States and Iran made diplomatic history Thursday as Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif talked for a half hour on the sidelines of a multilateral meeting on Iran’s nuclear program.

The meeting, which Zarif described as “more than a chat,” took place at the United Nations, and marked the highest-level and most-substantive encounter between officials of the two sides since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Zarif made the announcement at a gathering of think tankers and journalists addressed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The comments upstaged the president, who, when asked his reaction, told his interlocutor, Josette Sheeran, president of the Asia Society, “You ask for the first step. They [Kerry and Zarif] took it.”

Afterward, 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.”

The only previous meeting between a US Secretary of State and an Iranian foreign minister since the 1979 revolution took place in 2001 between Colin Powell and Kamal Kharrazi at a UN meeting about Afghanistan, but it was only a handshake and an exchange of courtesies. Condoleezza Rice, Powell’s successor, made several attempts at such encounters but came up short. [Continue reading…]

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