GENEVA – U.S. and European officials on Tuesday cautiously welcomed an Iranian proposal to end the decade-long standoff of its nuclear program, under which Iran would prove it is not seeking to build a nuclear weapon in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions.
Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, delivered an hourlong PowerPoint presentation of what Iranian news reports said was a package of proposals to resolve the impasse.
“It was very useful,” said Michael Mann, the spokesman for the European Union, afterward, without disclosing the content.
Experts then met for more than 2½ hours to flesh out the proposals. This time the U.S. delegation, headed by Wendy Sherman, the undersecretary of state, issued a comment. “For the first time, we had very detailed technical discussions,” the statement said.
The talks were the first formal negotiations on the contentious issue since the election in June of President Hasan Rouhani, a reformist who succeeded hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani won in a landslide after promising to do everything he could to resolve Iran’s overseas disputes and get the sanctions lifted.
Zarif’s deputy, Abbas Araqchi, told reporters the talks “were held in a highly positive atmosphere, and the two sides were serious when speaking of their issues.” He said the Iranian proposal, which Zarif titled “an end to an unnecessary crisis, a beginning of a new horizon,” had the potential to bring about a breakthrough.
“Progress would be very possible if there is goodwill on the other side,” he said, also refusing to give details.
Sherman and the U.S. delegation later met with Araqchi. The State Department called this the latest bilateral exchange, following President Obama’s telephone call to Rouhani as the Iranian president was departing the U.N. General Assembly and Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with Zarif during the U.N. session.