Chang Mei Yen,

Correspondent (Asia: Middle East and Central)


NEW YORK — Foreign ministers of the US, the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany will meet Iranian foreign minister Javad Zafir on Thursday, September 28 to discuss the country’s controversial nuclear programme.

The preliminary meeting hopes to pave the way for more substantial negotiations of Iran’s nuclear development. The meeting, which also includes US Secretary of State John Kerry, marks the highest-level, direct contact between US and Iran in six years.

The 2013 UN Summit heralds a breakthrough in international relations for both countries. In his address to the UN general assembly, newly-elected Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has offered immediate negotiations to remove ‘reasonable concerns’ over its nuclear programme in return for a recognition of its right to enrich uranium for civil purposes. Obama has also offered Iran an important symbolic gesture by making an official acknowledgement of the CIA’s role in ousting Iran’s democratically-elected government in 1953.

Diplomatic ties between the US and Iran has been strained since Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, with the impasse in US and Iran’s relations in recent years being centered on Iran’s nuclear programme and on concerns that the Iranian government is funding terrorism. The possibilites of a reconciliation arose with the election of president Hassan Rouhani in June. Rouhani, a moderate to his hardline predecessor Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, won the June elections on an electoral platform that promises to ease Iran’s diplomatic tension with the West and to end international sanctions crippling the Iranian economy.

President Rouhani, however, faces an uphill battle in his attempts to engage in diplomacy with the West. Reconciliation and the lifting of international sanctions is a public desire, but hard-liners in Iran’s theocratic political system are less than conciliatory. President Rouhani, in improving Iran’s relationship with the US, has to navigate a political tightrope that requires him to placate the Iranian public whilst refraining from political manuevers that would provoke a devastating backlash from Iran’s conservative faction. Judging from Mr Rouhani’s astute political performance in the UN Summit however, Iran is in capable hands.

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