Kerry, Iranian president may meet in Davos

WASHINGTON—U.S. officials said there’s a possibility Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Iranian President Hasan Rouhani this week on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Senior aides to Mr. Kerry, including spokeswoman Jen Psaki, refused to comment on whether such a meeting was in the works at the Swiss mountain resort. But if it occurs, it would provide the U.S. and Iran an important opportunity to discuss key developments in the Middle East, and attempt to keep their diplomatic rapprochement on track, according to U.S. officials and Middle East experts.

Mr. Kerry starts his trip to Switzerland on Tuesday in Montreux, where he’s attending a United Nations-backed conference on Syria. The U.N. on Sunday reversed course and invited Iran to attend the event, after Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said Tehran accepted the need to establish a transitional political authority in Damascus.

Mr. Kerry has publicly acknowledged that Iran has significant influence over the conflict in Syria due to its extensive military support for President Bashar al-Assad‘s regime. And Russian officials have made it clear that a resolution in Syria is impossible without Iranian buy-in. A Davos meeting offers the Obama administration the opportunity to discuss ending the Syria conflict directly with Iran’s president for the first time.

Monday marks the beginning of the six-month negotiating period during which Iran and the global powers – made up of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany – negotiate a final agreement that seeks to curb Iran’s nuclear program. Also starting Monday, Iran is committed to freezing the most advanced parts of its nuclear program, including the production of near weapons-grade fuel, in exchange for an easing of Western economic sanctions.

The agreement is facing strong opposition from hardliners in both Washington and Tehran. And Davos provides an opportunity for the American and Iranian administrations to show a unified front in pushing forward with the negotiation. Signs of improving relations between the U.S. and Iran also could aid Mr. Rouhani’s primary reason for attending the Davos forum: attracting international investment to Iran.

“Rouhani wants to show that he’s changing the economic environment in Iran,” said Vali Nasr, an Iran expert and dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. “A show of solidarity with Kerry could help make this point.”

By The Wall Street Journal 


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