U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif at the United Nations on Saturday, Sept. 26, in advance of the General Debate of the U.N. General Assembly which opens on Monday.
Why the State Department issued a press release and video of the absolutely content-less exchange is hard to understand. While Kerry appeared to be conciliatory and eager to please, Zarif was completely no-nonsense and uninterested in even the appearance of being conciliatory or cooperative. He had one issue on his mind: having the Iran Deal implemented “in good faith.”
In the extremely brief press availability prior to the meeting, a reporter asked Zarif whether he could imagine cooperating with the U.S. regarding Syria, if the U.S. insists on Assad stepping down, eventually. The second permitted question was directed to Kerry. The Secretary was asked whether he was going to raise the issue of American citizens being held in Iran.
Perhaps no one will be surprised to learn that neither of the questions were answered.
Secretary Kerry was upbeat and positive. He reminded the reporters that this was the first time he and Zarif were meeting since the Nuclear Iran Deal negotiations in Vienna.
Kerry congratulated everyone on all the work that has been done to keep the process moving and on track. Presumably he was talking about the squelching of all efforts to derail the non-signed, non-treaty treaty.
The Secretary also said that there were “a lot of issues to talk about,” but refused to identify or discuss any of them individually. However, he said “I view this week as a major opportunity for any number of countries to play an important role in trying to resolve some of the very difficult issues of the Middle East.”
Kerry said that peace needed to be achieved in the Middle East generally, and specifically mentioned Syria and Yemen, but refused to be any more specific about issues.
With respect to the question regarding American prisoners being held captive by Iran, Kerry said, “We always talk about American citizens with respect to their detainment in any part of the world, and so you can count on the fact that we will have a discussion.”
The two minute press briefing was then turned over to Zarif.
Zarif wasted no time on congratulations to anyone. He made it clear the only interest Iran has is moving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Deal) to implementation. He said that is his priority and have full, good-faith implementation may relieve “some of the mistrust that has existed over the past many decades.”
Zarif also suggested that there may be fireworks coming regarding Saudi Arabia, which Iran has charged was at fault for the hajj stampede which killed hundreds of people this week.
The problem with Saudi Arabia is the only specific issue he mentioned, but acknowledged there are other problems in the region which need to be addressed at some point.Lori Lowenthal Marcus