Just because he called for the annihilation of the Jewish state doesn’t mean Obama shouldn’t meet with him, right?
An exchange of letters between Barack Obama and the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, has set the stage for a possible meeting between the two men at the UN next week in what would be the first face-to-face encounter between a US and Iranian leader since Iran’s 1979 revolution.
Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, is also due to meet his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, at the UN general assembly meeting in New York, adding to guarded optimism that the June election of Rouhani, a Glasgow-educated moderate, and his appointment of a largely pragmatic cabinet, has opened the door to a diplomatic solution to the 11-year international standoff over Iran’s nuclear programme.
Tehran took the Foreign Office by surprise, tweeting on Rouhani’s English-language feed that the president would also be prepared to meet Hague, something the UK had not even requested.
“Tehran has responded positively to UK’s request. President Rouhani’s meeting w/WilliamJHague on the sidelines of UNGA has been confirmed,” the tweet said.
“We would be happy to meet,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said, “but we have had nothing formal from Tehran about it.”
Diplomats said that the tweet reflected the new Iranian government’s eagerness to make diplomatic headway on the nuclear issue, which has been at an impasse for several years. A Hague meeting with either Rouhani or Zarif could clear the way to restoring full diplomatic ties, which have not existed since the British embassy in Tehran was ransacked by a mob in November 2011.
In a television interview aired on Sunday, Obama made clear that there was a diplomatic opening with Iran, not only over the nuclear question but also over Syria. He confirmed earlier reports that he and Rouhani had “reached out” to each other, exchanging letters.