US and Iran in high-level meeting on of security summit

Efforts continue in Munich to resolve conflict over Iran’s nuclear ambitions

Catherine Ashton, EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, attending a panel discussion yesterday during the Munich security conference. Photograph: Joerg Koch/Getty Images

Catherine Ashton, EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, attending a panel discussion yesterday during the Munich security conference. Photograph: Joerg Koch/Getty Images

 


US and Iranian foreign ministers held a rare direct meeting on the fringes of the Munich security conference yesterday amid ongoing efforts to resolve the conflict over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

No details of the talks were made public but a US spokesman said US secretary of state John Kerry “reiterated the importance of both sides negotiating in good faith”. He also insisted that Iran must abide by its existing commitments under the “Joint Plan of Action” and that existing sanctions would continue to remain in place.


‘First step’
There was no comment from the Iranian delegation on the talks with Mr Kerry. However, in an interview on Saturday, Mohammad Javad Zarif insisted a final deal with Iran would not include Tehran giving up research on centrifuges used to purify uranium.

“It’s just the beginning of the negotiations for a final agreement, the first step of the final step and I expect it to take some time,” he said.

Sanctions against Iran were partially lifted in November after Iran agreed with the UN Security Council to halt its most sensitive nuclear operations and open its programme to wider inspections.

Yukiya Amano, head of the UN atomic energy agency IAEA, noted “positive and encouraging signs of movement”, but conceded that “a lot remains to be done”.

Mr Zarif insisted his country was interested in a permanent, peaceful solution to the standoff, telling western delegates: “You don’t have a monopoly on mistrust. There is a lot of mistrust in Iran.”

But Israeli defence minister Mosche Jaalon warned that Iran would “use the time to make further progress, to really become a military, nuclear state”.

Hopes of progress on Syria talks were frustrated, with UN negotiator Lakhdar Brahimi admitting that “nothing was achieved” in Munich.


NSA spying affair
Ongoing tensions between the EU and US over the NSA spying affair also hung over proceedings. Though US delegates were careful to avoid the matter, German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said there remained unanswered questions about the US eavesdropping on its partners. “The political damage is larger than the security gains,” he said.