Reuters: Iran would be available to hold further talks with the United States over the issue of Iraq, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said on Wednesday during a visit to South Africa. By Felix Bate
PRETORIA (Reuters) – Iran would be available to hold further talks with the United States over the issue of Iraq, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said on Wednesday during a visit to South Africa.
“If the Americans want to continue negotiations we are available. We told them our position and reminded them of their responsibility as the occupier,” Araghchi said after a speech at the University of Pretoria.
Tehran has previously said it was positively reviewing the possibility of a second round of talks on Iraq after a landmark meeting in May.
Araghchi, responding to a question from Reuters following a lecture on Iran’s nuclear program, said he believed Washington was under new pressure to clarify issues in Iraq.
“Now they are in a desperate position because they are suffering casualties every day, and they cannot just leave Iraq as it is because there is a risk of division of Iraq, a risk of absolute chaos and it will turn into a haven for terrorists,” he said.”
“They should understand that the world needs hear an exit plan,” he continued. “They should withdraw and they should introduce a timetable for withdrawal.”
Iraq said earlier this month that it was pressing the United States and Iran to hold a second round of talks in Baghdad but that no date had been set.
U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Kazemi-Qomi met in Baghdad on May 28 to discuss security in Iraq in what was the most high-profile meeting of the two arch enemies in almost three decades.
While both envoys described the talks as positive, neither has said publicly if they would accept an Iraqi invitation to meet again.
Washington accuses Iran of fomenting violence in Iraq, while Tehran blames the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 for sparking bloodshed that threatens to tear the country apart.
The May 28 discussions covered security in Iraq and both U.S. and Iranian officials say Iraqi issues, not other disputes, would be the focus of any further talks.
The United States and Iran are also at loggerheads over Tehran’s nuclear program. Washington says the atomic plans are aimed at building bombs, a charge Iran denies.
Araghchi said Tehran believed part of the solution was for all parties to work together to strengthen the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
“We need to strengthen Prime Minister Maliki, because there is no alternative for him at least at the moment, we need to strengthen the Iraqi police, we need to strengthen Iraqi army, give them much (more) authority and self-confidence, and also think about the question of reconstructing Iraq,” he said.
“Iraq is now suffering from a vicious cycle. There are Americans and foreign forces who claim they are there to fight the terrorists and the terrorists who claim they are fighting occupying forces, each justifying its presence with the other. We have to break the cycle, and for that I think we need an exit strategy from America.”