Secretary of State John Kerry plans to meet his Iranian counterpart this week for the highest-level face-to-face between Washington and Tehran in six years.
The meeting with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif would come as Iran’s new President Hasan Rouhani visits the United Nations in New York.
Rouhani, seen as a relative moderate compared to Iran’s hardline clerics, said Monday that he would use the U.N. visit to present the “true face of Iran” as “a cultured and peace-loving country.”
“Unfortunately in recent years the face of Iran, a great and civilized nation, has been presented in another way,” Rouhani said on his official website.
“Iran’s foreign minister and lead nuclear negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif, was set to meet the European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, formally starting the new era of negotiations between the two sides.”
The State Department on Monday said it stands ready to “work with Iran should the Rouhani administration choose to engage seriously.”
“Secretary Kerry welcomes the Foreign Minister’s commitment to a substantive response and to his agreement to meeting in the short term with permanent UN Security Council members and Germany coordinated by EU High Representative Ashton to discuss the nuclear program,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.
The Wall Street Journal quotes Ashton as saying that she was struck by Zarif’s “energy and determination … “to try to move forward in our talks.”
“She also said a new round of nuclear talks between Iran and the six major powers would be held in Geneva in October. The talks would be the first since Mr. Rouhani’s election in June.”
The WSJ says despite the White House saying “no meeting is planned” between Rouhani and President Obama, “administration officials have said they are open to a brief meeting or exchange between the two this week.”