I am strongly supportive of recent efforts by both sides to improve U.S.-Iran relations. President Obama has on a number of occasions made clear his willingness to open a new chapter in relations with Iran. And in recent weeks we have heard some measured and encouraging words from President Rouhani and other members of his new government. In this cautiously hopeful atmosphere, President Obama spoke by telephone with Iranian President Rouhani on 27 September, the first conversation between the two countries' leaders since 1979.I myself met with new Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif on 26 September and, in a wide-ranging discussion, very much encouraged the new opening for more productive engagement between Iran and the international community. I have consistently emphasised that while the issues surrounding Iran’s nuclear programme are of serious international concern, progress in addressing these can only be achieved through diplomacy and negotiation.
US Secretary of State John Kerry also met with Foreign Minister Zarif at a Ministerial-level meeting of the E3+3 (Germany, France and the U.K. plus the U.S., China and Russia) on 26 September in the margins of the UN General Assembly session in New York. I welcome the fact that this meeting was a substantial and positive one. The Iran nuclear issue remains one of the biggest stumbling blocks to better relations between Iran and, not only the U.S., but also the EU and the wider international community. I fully support the statements of Secretary Kerry and EU High Representative Ashton following this meeting, which emphasised that the current political opening must be translated into a practical, time-bound framework that is implemented on the ground. Iran and the E3+3 and Iran have agreed an early date of 15 and 16 October for their next meeting, in Geneva. This will be an important test of Iran’s willingness to truly engage this time around.
The US, the E3+3 and other EU member states including Ireland fully acknowledge Iran’s right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. However, under the terms of the NPT, Iran must not engage in a nuclear weapons programme, and must cooperate fully with the safeguards system of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as a means of verifying the exclusively peaceful nature of its programme. Iran currently stands in breach of a succession of UN Security Council and IAEA resolutions concerning its nuclear programme. In its report of November 2011 on the implementation of IAEA Safeguards in Iran, the Agency concluded that there are strong grounds for serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme while also indicating that Iran had carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.
I very much hope that Iran will now be ready to address the many legitimate questions which the international community has asked regarding its nuclear programme and to address also the concerns about possible military dimensions to that programme without any further delay. There is no doubt that the Iranian people would be the main beneficiaries of the better economic and political relations with the wider international community, including the E.U. and the U.S., that would follow the prompt and peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue.