Iran’s new President, Hassan Rouhani, declared that “peace is within reach” on Wednesday, in a hotly anticipated speech at the United Nations in which he offered immediate negotiations aimed at removing any “reasonable concerns” over his country’s nuclear programme.
Rouhani argued that in return, Iran wanted the international community to recognise its right to enrich uranium, the issue that has been at the heart of the diplomatic impasse over the past 11 years.
The Iranian president, elected in June, was speaking a few hours Barack Obama had stood at the same podium and pledged to focus his administration’s foreign policy in its remaining three years on the Middle East, particularly on reaching a diplomatic settlement in Iran.
Diplomacy at work
What the world was waiting for didn’t happen. Despite much warmth shown from both sides, there was no handshake between Rouhani and Obama. There were plenty of signals from both the US and Iran of a willingness to engage directly ending decades of hostility.
The US appeared keen to go the extra length hoping to engineer a chance encounter between Obama and Rouhani on the margins of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.
But, said White House officials, the Iranians said it was turning out too “complicated” for them.
India will be watching closely as better US-Iran ties will be a relief, having been pressured to cut Iranian crude imports as part of western efforts to kill Teheran’s nuclear programme.