Will they shake their hands? Perhaps only a formality, but this may be the most central question in the hours before US President Barack Obama and Iran's President Hassan Rohani's
speeches in the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.
Washington, which has confirmed on Monday that a historical meeting will take place between State Secretary John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, is offering Tehran with the classic carrot and stick scenario: Readiness to enter negotiations should Iran
exhibit earnestness and open its facilities to inspection or continued sanctions and other possible options, should Iran try to bamboozle the West.
Obama is set to speak around 4 pm, shortly after UN Chief Ban Ki-moon.
Rohani will speak at 11 pm. The two speeches will be aired live on Ynetnews.
The Americans are not opposed to a handshake between the leaders, but a meeting has yet to be scheduled. However, the main thrust to promote direct nuclear talks will not take place in such a meeting, or on the podium, but on Thursday, on the Assembly's sidelines. Then, representatives of six world powers will meet the Iranian foreign minister, with the participation of John Kerry.
"The fact of the matter is we don't have a meeting scheduled with President Rohani,
but we're always open to diplomacy if we believe it can advance our objectives, and in this instance our objective is an Iran that meets its international obligations," said Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser at the White House.
"You can't solve all the Iran issues in one meeting. We're open to act with the Iranian government on different levels, if they fulfill their obligation to discuss the international community's concerns regarding its nuclear program."
"The issues between the United States and Iran are not ones that would be settled with one discussion," he added.
White House Spokesperson Jay Carney noted that Obama has been consisted since he assumed office in his readiness to negotiate with Iran, should it prove to be serious in the discussions of its nuclear program.
The US State Department issued a statement on Monday night in which it expressed the US's hope that "the new Iranian government will engage substantively with the international community to reach a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program and to cooperate fully with the IAEA in its investigation."
State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said: " We remain ready to work with Iran should the Rouhani administration choose to engage seriously. Secretary Kerry welcomes the Foreign Minister's commitment to a substantive response and to his agreement to meeting in the short term with permanent UN Security Council members and Germany."
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