Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has welcomed with reservation the US Vice President Joe Biden’s offer of direct talks with Iran, saying negotiations are not a forbidden zone, Press TV reports. “We looked at it positively. I think this is a good overture.... But we will have to wait a little bit longer to see if their gesture is this time a real gesture...so that we will be making our decisions likewise,” Salehi told Press TV in an interview on Sunday. Speaking at the 49th annual Munich Security Conference in Germany on Saturday, Biden said Washington is ready to hold direct talks with Iran over the country’s nuclear energy program.
“I would like to say that these are good signs.... We are a rational government and we look into resolving all outstanding international issues through negotiation,” Salehi added.The Iranian minister said Tehran does not consider holding “bilateral talks” with the US off-limits, citing negotiations the two states have already held on Iraq and Afghanistan. “This is not a forbidden zone. This is not a red line when it comes to holding bilateral talks on particular subjects. Here I mean the nuclear issue. This is not a red line,” Salehi said. The Iranian minister, however, stated that the US should stop sending “contradictory signals” to the Islamic Republic like its incessant rhetoric of keeping all options on the table.
“Disputes have to be resolved through negotiation. Conflict is not the way. Engagement is the way.”The US, Israel and some of their allies have repeatedly accused Iran of pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program with Washington and the European Union having imposed illegal unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic over the false allegation. Iran refutes the allegation and argues that as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, it is entitled to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. In the interview, Salehi also welcomed the Syrian opposition’s proposal to negotiate with the government of President Bashar al-Assad. “That was a step forward. We welcome that,” said Salehi, who met with head of the Syrian National Coalition Moaz al-Khatib in the German city of Munich. He noted that such a dialogue would be the only way out of the ongoing crisis in Syria. “Enough is enough. We have to stop the blame game. We cannot keep on blaming one another,” the Iranian minister said. Salehi called on the international community and the countries in the region to facilitate talks between the government and the opposition. He said his meetings with al-Khatib and also the UN-Arab League Special Envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi have been fruitful. KA/HGH/SS