Iran and the U.S. were cautiously optimistic after a half-hour, face-to-face meeting involving both countries on Thursday at the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. It's the first meeting between two senior officials from the U.S. and Iran since former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had ice cream with her Iranian counterpart in 2007. Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sat next to each other at the international P5 meeting concerning Iran's nuclear program.
Kerry, following the meeting, cautioned that a single session wasn't going to solve the differences between the two countries. After all, Iran isn't even ready to agree to a handshake between its President Hassan Rouhani and Barack Obama. But in an interview with CBS's '60 Minutes' that aired on Thursday, Kerry was willing to agree, hypothetically, to discussing the possibility of finding some sort of agreement in months. "Sure, it's possible," he said, adding, "It's possible to have a deal sooner than that depending on how forthcoming and clear Iran is prepared to be."
The new window of diplomatic opportunity between Iran and the U.S. opened a few weeks ago, when newly-elected president Rouhani, a moderate, exchanged letters with Barack Obama indicating a willingness to pursue a nuclear deal that would let the country keep a verifiably peaceful program. And while some in Congress, along with Israel, see little to indicate that the offer — or intent of the program — is genuine, it looks like that option is on the table. Speaking to CBS, Kerry said that "The United States is not going to lift the sanctions until it is clear that a very verifiable, accountable, transparent process is in place, whereby we know exactly what Iran is going be doing with its program." But given the ice cold state of Iran-U.S. relations, it's important that the U.S. is even talking about lifting sanctions at all. Those relations are still extremely complicated, in part, as many have pointed out, because Rouhani's international rhetoric does always not match his domestic words. And despite the Iranian president's recent charm campaign to the West, the U.S. is still debating whether Rouhani is a Holocaust denier or not.
For his part, Zarif said that the discussion was "more than a chat," adding, "Now we have to match our words with action.” Zarif reiterated one big concern for Iran here is working towards a deal that would lift international sanctions against the country.