The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the United States and Iran held the highest level of talks in 36 years. The topic of conversation: Tehran’s nuclear program, enriched Uranium, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The meeting was held at the United Nations in New York.
It began with Western nations attempting to coalesce a program that would “inspect, verify, and curtail” any Iranian nuclear weapons programs. Neither side was enthusiastic about the possibility.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accompanied Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to the Security Council’s consultation chamber for the meeting, where foreign dignitaries from the UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany also joined them for the conversation. “[Zarif’s argument was] very different in tone and very different in the vision that he held out with respect to the possibilities of the future,” Kerry said of the meeting.
Zarif, meanwhile, described the meetings from his perspective as “very substantive” and “businesslike,” while he argued that the West would need to ease sanctions on Iran for the talks to move forward. “In the endgame, there has to be a total lifting of all sanctions…We hope to be able to move in that direction within a short span of time,” Zarif said.
William Hague, British Foreign Secretary, said of the meeting that it represented “a good start,” particularly coupled with the scheduling of a second discussion between the world powers on October 15 and 16 in Geneva. That conversation would hopefully result in a 1-year time frame to resolve the issue of Iran’s weapons program.
Western powers have charged Tehran’s government with directly attempting to produce nuclear weapons of mass destruction, but Iranian president Hasan Rouhani has continued to reiterate in recent days that his nation’s program is not a hostile one. Rouhani also objected to Israel’s lack of participation in nuclear non-proliferation. “Almost four decades of international efforts to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East have regrettably failed… Israel, the only nonparty to the Nonproliferation Treaty in this region, should join thereto without any further delay,” Rouhani said at a nuclear disarmament meeting.
The entire meeting was over in about an hour. The European dignitaries found the meeting to be highly successful; German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters as he exited that “This week, a window of opportunity has opened” and that actions, not words, will truly count as the negotiations proceed.[Image via a CNN report on YouTube of the landmark meeting]