US Says Might Talk With Iran on Region

US Says Might Talk With Iran on RegionUS Says Might Talk With Iran on Region

The US State Department said on Monday it might talk with Iran about promoting regional stability, noting it had been open to including Iran in past efforts to achieve a Syrian peace deal if Tehran had altered its policy.

But it drew a distinction between talking to Iran about issues beyond its nuclear program and actually working with Tehran on such matters.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf made the comments when asked about a call by Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif in a New York Times opinion piece for regional dialogue to address the crises in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen, Reuters reported.

Washington was put in an awkward position since it blames Tehran for the instability in the region and because it does not wish to upset Persian Gulf Arab allies who fear a nuclear deal being negotiated with Iran may pave the way to a wider US-Iranian entente, which may in turn increase Tehran’s regional influence.

The State Department appeared to be treading a careful line so as to not shut the door entirely to dialogue with Iran while not alienating Persian Gulf Arab allies like Saudi Arabia.

Asked if the United States might discuss regional issues as it has in the past with Iran if Tehran pursued policies more in line with US objectives, Harf replied, “Maybe.”

She said Washington had been open to including Tehran in a second round of Syria peace talks in 2014 had Iran embraced the 2012 “Geneva Communiqué,” which called for a political transition, but left ambiguous the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In the end, Iran did not sign on to the Geneva Communiqué and did not participate in the January 2014 “Geneva II” meeting.

Harf sought to draw a distinction between the possibility of talking to the Iranians and the reality of “working with” them, suggesting that was a line Washington would not cross.

“We’ve always said we won’t be coordinating or working with the Iranians, and there’s a difference between discussing and working with,” she said.

Iranian officials have also ruled out cooperation with the US in the campaign against terrorists operating in the region.  

The debate over regional unrest comes against the backdrop of negotiations between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States on a deal to resolve the 12-year dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program.