Last updated: 20 April, 2015

Nuclear deal could open door to regional cooperation

Iran on Monday pushed its call for peace talks to end the fighting in Yemen, and offered assurances that a nuclear deal would pave the way for greater cooperation with its neighbors.

“With courageous leadership and the audacity to make the right decisions, we can and should put this manufactured crisis to rest and move on to much more important work,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote, referring to global suspicions about his country’s nuclear program.

His New York Times op-ed piece entitled “A message from Iran” came ahead of new political talks in Vienna this week as global powers chase a full deal on Iran’s nuclear program by a June 30 deadline.

“Iran has been clear: the purview of our constructive engagement extends far beyond nuclear negotiations,” Zarif wrote, adding it was time for “Iran and other stakeholders to begin to address the causes of tension in the wider Persian Gulf region.”

“It is not a question of governments rising and falling: the social, cultural and religious fabrics of entire countries are being torn to shreds.”

Iran last week presented a four-point peace plan for Yemen to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, demanding international action to end the “senseless” Saudi-led air campaign against Huthi Shiite rebels backed by Tehran.

But Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin rejected Iran’s offer to mediate in the crisis in his war-torn country.

“Those who are a party to the crisis… cannot become mediators,” he said.

And White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday it was “a little ironic” for Zarif to be calling for a diplomatic resolution in Yemen “while at the same time his country continues to supply arms to one party.”

Zarif argued however that “Iran has offered a reasonable and practical approach to address this painful and unnecessary crisis.”

Tehran has called for an immediate ceasefire, humanitarian aid, and intra-Yemeni dialogue leading to the formation of an inclusive, broad-based national unity government.

He also called for a collective forum for dialogue in the Gulf region, involving “relevant regional stakeholders,” perhaps under the umbrella of the United Nations, saying it was “long overdue.”

– Security cooperation –

Such dialogue would recognize “respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity” as well as the “inviolability of international borders” and “non-interference in internal affairs.”

“A regional dialogue could eventually include more formal non-aggression and security cooperation arrangements,” Zarif suggested.

But predominantly Sunni Gulf nations have long been wary of Shiite Iran’s regional ambitions.

And State Department acting spokeswoman Marie Harf reiterated that Washington remained concerned about Iran’s “destabilizing role” across the region.

While the US would not coordinate with Iran in the fight against Islamic State, “in the past we have shown an openness to discussions of these issues with Iran,” Harf said, conceding Washington might be willing to hold such talks in the future.

“Just because we might talk to the Iranians about issues, does not in any way mean we are working with them,” she added.

Harf also denied a weekend report in The Wall Street Journal, quoting congressional officials, which suggested that upon reaching a nuclear deal the Islamic Republic could receive between $30 to $60 billion in sanctions relief.

“They won’t get relief until they take nuclear-related steps. And those cannot technically probably happen on day one,” Harf told reporters.