Kerry to meet Iran foreign minister: A diplomatic breakthrough?

The highest-level meeting between the two nations' representatives since 1979 draws skepticism from Israel


Natasha Lennard
September 23, 2013 10:49PM (UTC)

In what may constitute a diplomatic breakthrough over Iran's nuclear program and the geo-political quagmire surrounding it, Secretary of State John Kerry is due to meet Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Thursday at U.N. headquarters.

The Guardian's Julian Borger noted that this will constitute "the highest-level direct U.S.-Iranian talks since the Iranian revolution of 1979." Nuclear talks with Iran have been in at am impasse for eight years, with Iranian citizens suffering under increasingly fierce trade sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies. Iran's newly elected president, Hassan Rouhani, is displaying pragmatism in restarting talks and the European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, who facilitates the nuclear talks, spoke with high hopes for the U.S.-Iran meeting:

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"What I saw today is energy and determination to move forward on our talks and many things flow from that," said Ashton.

Unsurprisingly, Israel has responded with a cool skepticism to this diplomatic push, claiming that Rouhani's vows to not develop a nuclear arsenal are insufficient. "The true test is not Rouhani's words, but rather the deeds of the Iranian regime, which continues to aggressively advance its nuclear program while Rouhani is giving interviews," read a statement from Benjamin Netanyahu's office, which framed Rouhani's efforts as no more than P.R. spin.

"With the economic situation in Iran approaching bankruptcy in many respects, if the pressure is working it shouldn't let up at this crucial point," Zalman Shoval, a former ambassador to the U.S. and a special envoy for Netanyahu, told the Guardian, evidencing how Obama and Netanyahu's approaches are poised to differ over Iran.

Meanwhile, there Rouhani is making political moves to prove that his apparent moderateness should be taken seriously. As Haaretz reported, "on Monday, Iran announced it has freed 80 prisoners, including many arrested during the unrest after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009." The release, Haaretz noted, should serve as a "diplomatic boost" for Rouhani as Thursday's high level meeting approaches.


Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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