ABU DHABI/LONDON (Reuters) – US Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday he hoped an agreement on Iran’s disputed nuclear programme would be signed within months and London and Tehran revived diplomatic ties, signs of a warmer atmosphere between the Islamic Republic and the West.
In a further indication of cooperation, the United Nations nuclear watchdog reached an agreement under which Iran will grant UN inspectors access to more nuclear facilities.
Iran and six world powers – the United States, Britain, Russia, France, China and Germany – came close to a preliminary nuclear agreement at the weekend during talks in Geneva and decided to resume negotiations on Nov. 20 in their attempt to defuse a decade-old standoff.
“This is not a race to complete just any agreement,” Kerry told a news conference during a visit to the United Arab Emirates. However, he added: “Through diplomacy we have an absolute responsibility to pursue an agreement.”
While saying that a deal with Iran was expected within months, Kerry tried to reassure Washington’s Arab allies and Israel that his country would not abandon them.
Thumping the podium to make his point, Kerry said President Barack Obama had said “that he will continue to defend his friends and allies in this region, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, others, he will defend them against any external attack.
“That is the promise of the United States and as I stand here as secretary of state, as long as I’m secretary of state, that is also our policy, my policy, representing the president of the United States in executing it.”
The fact that a deal might be within reach after a decade of confrontation between Iran and Western powers shows the shift in the tone of Tehran’s foreign policy since President Hassan Rouhani was elected in June.
Rouhani began diplomatic moves towards a nuclear deal in order to ease sanctions that have throttled Iran’s vital oil industry and cut it off from the international banking system.
On the table initially is phased, limited and reversible relief from sanctions. Iran, however, wants an early lifting of the oil and banking sanctions.
Britain and Iran said they were reviving diplomatic ties two years after a mob of students attacked the British embassy in Tehran. Both sides said they were appointing a new charge d’affaires.