Iran's foreign minister expressed hope on Wednesday that a meeting with the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany this week will kick-start negotiations to resolve the decade-long dispute over Tehran's nuclear program.
Asked what he expected from the meeting on Thursday with his counterparts from the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said: "a jump-start to the negotiations ... with a view to reaching an agreement within the shortest span."
Speaking after a meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, he added: "The Islamic Republic has the political readiness and political will for serious negotiations and we are hopeful that the opposite side has this will as well."
"We ... had a good discussion about the start of nuclear talks and the talks that will take place tomorrow at the foreign ministerial level between Iran and the P5+1," Zarif said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will join Fabius, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the German and Chinese foreign ministers for the meeting. Also present will be European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton.
The meeting bringing the top U.S. diplomat and new Iranian foreign minister around the same conference table will be highly unusual given the United States has not maintained diplomatic
relations with Iran since 1980.
In his U.N. speech on Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama cautiously embraced overtures from Iran's new president as the basis for a possible nuclear deal, but a failed effort to arrange a simple handshake between the two leaders underscored entrenched distrust that will be hard to overcome.
Hassan Rowhani, Iran's new centrist president, used his debut at the world body on Tuesday to pledge Iran's willingness to engage immediately in "time-bound" talks on the nuclear issue. He offered no new concessions and repeated many of Iran's grievances against the United States, and Washington's key Middle East ally, Israel.
Iran has been negotiating with the so-called P5+1 since 2006 about its nuclear program, which Western powers and their allies suspect is aimed at developing a nuclear-weapons capability.
Tehran says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and that having an atomic arsenal is a violation of Islamic law.
Iran has been hit with painful U.S., European Union and U.N. sanctions for refusing to suspend its uranium enrichment program.