E.U. envisions role for Iran in peace talks

UNITED NATIONS — The European Union’s top diplomat said Tuesday evening that she hoped a final nuclear deal with Iran would clear the way for Tehran to play a “major but positive role” in the conflicts roiling the Middle East, particularly in Syria.

The diplomat, Federica Mogherini, who is the European Union’s foreign policy chief, made her remarks before meeting with her Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Her comments focused on the last-mile negotiations to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb.

“I’m also convinced this could lead the way, open the way to a different role of Iran in the region,” Ms. Mogherini told reporters, adding that she hoped that an accord with Iran on the nuclear issue could usher in security and stability to the region.

So far, the world powers that led the nuclear negotiations with Iran have insisted that those talks, which face a June deadline, have been separate from any peace talks on Syria. Her remarks signaled a departure from that stance.

“The best possible approach you can have is for sure to have on one side a positive outcome of talks so they cannot develop a nuclear weapon and on other side to call for Iran to play a major, a major but positive role in Syria in particular,” she said.

Iran is a vital backer of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and has been notably shut out of peace talks.

Ms. Mogherini said nothing specific about the challenges that remained in the nuclear talks, except that she hoped to have “fruitful” conversations in the coming weeks. She is scheduled to meet with Secretary John Kerry in Washington on Wednesday.

Separately, Ms. Mogherini suggested that the European Union would seek the Security Council’s support for its proposal to crack down on smuggling rings in Libya that send desperate migrants across the Mediterranean.

Human rights groups have criticized the proposal.

She said the 28 member states of the Europe Union were keen to make sure that enforcement operations were “in full respect of international law.”

This article was written by Somini Sengupta for The New York Times on April. 28, 2015. Somini Sengupta covers the United Nations. She was previously The Times’ bureau chief in Dakar and New Delhi and most recently wrote about technology and the law. She was born in Calcutta, grew up in Canada and California and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. She is the recipient of the 2004 George Polk Award for foreign reporting.