Zee Media Bureau
New York: After a gap of nearly six years, Iran and the United States held their highest-level talks on Thursday, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
The talks were described as substantive, constructive and positive. Officials, however, were cautious on the progress made in ending the long-running standoff over Iran`s nuclear program.
The meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was followed by the latter`s broad-ranging talks with the United States and other international powers on Tehran`s nuclear programme. World powers suspect the programme is aimed developing nuclear weapons.
Diplomats from the major countries described the atmosphere of the wider talks in positive terms, but they, as well as the US and Iranian foreign ministers, stressed the difficulty of resolving a dispute that has eluded solution for a decade.
"We had a very constructive meeting," Kerry told reporters after the talks at the United Nations, where he and Zarif had sat next to one another in a gesture that suggested a desire by both sides to explore how to ease their more than three-decade estrangement.
But Kerry added, "Needless to say, one meeting and a change in tone, which was welcome, doesn`t answer those questions yet and there is a lot of work to be done."
The United States wants Iran to address questions about its nuclear program, which Washington and its allies suspect is a cover for developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies that, saying its program is for solely peaceful, civilian uses.
Zarif, a US-educated diplomat, also sounded a cautionary note and insisted on quick relief from the painful US, European Union and UN sanctions imposed for Iran`s refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program.
"I am satisfied with this first step. Now we have to see whether we can match our positive words with serious deeds so we can move forward," he told reporters.
"Of course as we move forward, there has to be removal of sanctions and in the end game there has to be a total lifting of all sanctions and both bilateral sanctions, unilateral sanctions as well as multilateral sanctions and UN sanctions and we hope to be able to move in that direction within a short span of time."
Kerry said Zarif had put some "possibilities" on the table, but stressed there was more work to be done.
(With Reuters inputs)