Rowhani in New York: Another baby step towards reconciliation

There is a long way to go in restoring diplomatic ties, but a face-to-face encounter between Rowhani and Obama could be a step in that direction

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard
Camelia Entekhabi-Fard
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Like rock stars, Iranian presidents are used to stealing the limelight from other heads of state when they travel to New York to address the United Nations.

This year is a little different because Pope Francis will be in town on an official visit to attend the 70th General Assembly.

Despite the spotlight currently being on the pontiff, it is expected to shift to Iranian President Hassan Rowhani if a possible meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, goes ahead.

There is a long way to go in fully restoring diplomatic ties – but a potential face-to-face encounter could be a baby step in that direction.

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

A key question will be over what approach Rowhani will take in New York following the recent nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers.

Historic meeting

In 2013, the freshly elected Rowhani attended the United Nations General Assembly and had a historic phone conversation with Obama, after 35 years of animosity between the two nations. Rowhani later secured the nuclear agreement; he now needs to reduce the tension over Iran’s foreign policy.

Rowhani’s mission in New York is partly to melt the ice of mistrust and coldness between Iran and the United States. But he must do this slowly, so as it wouldn’t be too visible to the hardliners in Tehran that oppose the improved relations with Washington. If he succeeds in this delicate balancing act, Rowhani’s star will rise in both the U.S. and Iran.

Of course, the nuclear deal is just one of Iran’s interests, with the crises in the Middle East and the future of Syria and its President Bashar al-Assad also on the agenda.

The New York visit is a key opportunity for Iranian officials, given that next year President Obama will be preparing to hand over power to his successor.

And if Rowhani does meet Obama, the trip to New York could be seen as another success in his presidential record. A brief meeting and attending the summit will not mean fully normalized relations – but would indicate a further thaw in relations between the countries.

There is a long way to go in fully restoring diplomatic ties – but a potential face-to-face encounter could be a baby step in that direction. If Iran is ready to take that step, this could be its only chance.

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Came-lia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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