U.S., Iran Hold First Official Face-to-Face Talks in Almost 30 Years

((((( LatWp LatWp) -The United States and Iran held their first official high-level, face-to-face talks in almost 30 years to discuss the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, and officials emerged generally upbeat about the renewed dialogue, suggesting additional meetings were likely.

In briefings to reporters afterward, the chief negotiators -- U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker and Iran's ambassador to Baghdad, Hassan Kazemi Qomi -- said the talks focused solely on Iraq and did not stray into the contentious areas of Iran's nuclear program or the recent detentions of Iranian American citizens by Tehran.

Underscoring the crux of the security problem here, a suicide bomber detonated a truck loaded with explosives at one of Iraq's most revered Sunni shrines, the Abdul Qadir al- Gailani mosque, in central Baghdad shortly before talks concluded. The blast killed at least 19 people and wounded 69, raising fears of a retaliatory cycle of sectarian bloodshed similar to what happened last year when a Shiite shrine was bombed in Samarra . More than 1,000 people were killed in sectarian violence following the Samarra mosque attack in February 2006.

``This mosque for centuries has been a refuge for all Iraqis -- here we call for the unity of the people and brotherhood,'' the Sunni mosque's imam, Mahmoud Essawi , said after Monday's blast. ``I'm calling on Iraqis not to be drawn into the strife.'' It was the deadliest attack in a day in which more 75 people were killed across the country by mortar strikes, roadside bombs, suicide attacks and other violence.

Monday's four-hour meeting between the U.S. and Iran diplomats yielded no breakthroughs, but the comments by Crocker and Qomi suggested that the two countries shared surprisingly similar assessments of the security problems facing Iraq, if not the causes. Both men characterized the meeting as positive.

``The two sides dealt with the issues in a very frank and transparent and clear way,'' Qomi told reporters in a news conference at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad. ``The views of both sides were unified and identical on the question of the security issue.''

Crocker said, ``There was pretty good congruence right down the line -- support for a secure, stable, democratic, federal Iraq, in control of its own security, at peace with its neighbors.'' But then the two sides parted ways, he said.

``This is about actions, not just principles, and I laid out to the Iranians direct, specific concerns about their behavior in Iraq and their support for militias that are fighting Iraqi and coalition forces,'' he said. Crocker said he did not present a dossier of evidence, but he impressed upon his Iranian counterpart that the United States was ``looking for results'' and wanted ``a change in Iranian behavior.''

He said Qomi did not respond to the comments.

At his news conference, Qomi said allegations that Iran is supplying insurgents with weapons, munitions and training have been denied by Iran on numerous occasions and ``don't prove anything.''

In what may be one of the more significant ideas raised at the meeting, Qomi said that Iran had proposed the creation of a special security committee composed of Iranian, U.S. and Iraqi officials that could deal with all U.S. allegations about Iranian activities in Iraq. Such a committee could also offer a framework for future meetings, Qomi said.

Crocker said he would forward the proposal to Washington, adding, ``My comment at the time was that (the proposed committee) sounded very much like the meeting we were sitting in.

``Their main focus was on the mechanisms, if you will, and principles, rather than the detailed security substance that we need to see improvement on,'' Crocker said.

Both sides said the talks were instigated by Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al- Maliki , and were held in his office. Maliki welcomed the ambassadors, who shook hands, and then escorted them into a conference room. The prime minister did not attend the meeting; Iraq was represented at the session by national security adviser Mowaffak al- Rubaie .

The United States blames Iran for fueling much of the bloodshed and violence in Iraq by supplying weapons and munitions to Shiite and Sunni Arab insurgents, who are conducting a deadly campaign against U.S. forces and their coalition partners, including the Iraqi security forces.

According to the Pentagon, 3,433 U.S. service members have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, and 25,549 have been wounded. As many as 70,552 Iraqi civilians have died from war-related causes, according to Iraq Body Count, an antiwar group that monitors casualties here.

Iran charges that the United States is an imperial power that has brought instability not only to Iraq, but to the entire Middle East region through its occupation of Iraq and its pro-Israel policies. Iranian leaders have demanded that the United States announce a timetable for the withdrawal of the roughly 150,000 U.S. troops stationed here. But neither of those issues was raised explicitly at Monday's meeting, Crocker said.

Iran charges that the United States is an imperial power that has brought instability not only to Iraq, but to the entire Middle East region through its occupation of Iraq and its pro-Israel policies. Iranian leaders have demanded that the United States announce a timetable for the withdrawal of the roughly 150,000 U.S. troops stationed here. But neither of those issues was raised explicitly at Monday's meeting, Crocker said.

Qomi asserted that ``the effort to train and equip the Iraqi security forces had been inadequate to the challenges faced,'' according to Crocker, who said he responded that the United States had spent billions of dollars on the effort.

Qomi asserted that ``the effort to train and equip the Iraqi security forces had been inadequate to the challenges faced,'' according to Crocker, who said he responded that the United States had spent billions of dollars on the effort.

Qomi said his side stressed the suffering of Iraqi civilians and the need for better security. ``The Islamic Republic of Iran offered to provide all kinds of support, such as consultations, rehabilitation training and provision of weapons to the Iraqi forces,'' he said.

Few analysts expected any major announcements from Monday's meeting, but there were hopes that, at a minimum, the talks could open a new era of dialogue that might lead to greater stability in Iraq and more normal relations between Iran and the United States.

Few analysts expected any major announcements from Monday's meeting, but there were hopes that, at a minimum, the talks could open a new era of dialogue that might lead to greater stability in Iraq and more normal relations between Iran and the United States.

Qomi called the meeting ``the first step in the process of negotiations between the two sides.'' Crocker was more reticent, saying that the Iraqi government is expected to issue an invitation to more talks ``in the near future,'' and that the United States will consider it. Asked if he was optimistic that direct dialogue would lead to better relations with Iran, he said, ``Whether that will produce results is up to them.''

The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution, when followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew the U.S.-backed shah of Iran and established an Islamic state. Khomeini supporters sacked the U.S. Embassy and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days in an ordeal that deeply humiliated the administration of President Jimmy Carter and battered the American psyche.

Iran cuts number of centrifuges enriching uranium to 60% purity, IAEA report says
Iran cuts number of centrifuges enriching uranium to 60% purity, IAEA report says
Iran adds advanced machines at Natanz uranium enrichment plant: IAEA
Iran adds advanced machines at Natanz uranium enrichment plant: IAEA
JCPOA Joint Commission to convene on April 20
JCPOA Joint Commission to convene on April 20
Loading Bars
Latest
E-auction for right to explore and produce hydrocarbons wraps up in Kazakhstan
Azerbaijan eyes to expand pomegranate export in 2021
Very ambitious reforms carried out in energy sector of Georgia - deputy minister
Azerbaijan, Hungary agree to cooperate in developing e-government
Uzbekistan remains largest importer of Kazakh wheat
United Airlines gets summer ready; to add over 480 flights to U.S. schedule
Israel's Health Ministry warns against travel to seven countries
Ambassador of Georgia to Ukraine returns to his duties
Georgia's import of tubes, pipes, hollow profiles from Turkey decreases
Georgia's Geostat reveals volume of ferroalloys exported to Turkey
Azerbaijan, Turkey to exchange experience on capital markets dev't
Georgia sees increase in volume of new mortgages - TBC Capital
Port of Baku may be transferred to private management - Director-General
Turkey reveals volume of cargo shipped through ports since early 2021
Kazakhstan suspends trade, economic co-op agreement with Croatia
Georgia can become one of 25 largest blueberry exporters in world
Public sector of Turkmenistan increases production volumes
Kazakhstan reveals physical volume of GDP for 2020
Azerbaijan announces date for export of domestic cars to Ukraine
Georgia's imports of medical products from Turkey down
Turkmenistan to participate in implementation of container line between Russia, Iran
Azerbaijan publishes data on number of vaccinated citizens for Apr. 23
Azerbaijani president appoints temporary Health Minister
IFC to provide assistance to Georgia in field of investment
Georgia sees increase in import of vehicles from Turkey
TAP implementing €800,000 worth program to reduce marine litter
Georgian exports of knitwear to Turkey up
Nar launches “Reading hour” Project for schoolchildren
Total volume of bank deposits of Azerbaijani population slightly decreases
Azerbaijan confirms 1,809 more COVID-19 cases, 2,191 recoveries
Georgia joins European Union's Eurodesk network
AmEx profit beats on over $1 bln reserve release boost
Azerbaijani president signs decree on dismissal of Health Minister
Azerbaijan publishes 1Q2021 data on gas exports to Italy
Businesses in Georgia to begin recovery in 2H2021 - Banking Association of Georgia
Lending to public organizations in Azerbaijan drops
Uzbekistan considers co-op with Caspian states as priority direction of foreign policy strategy
Azerbaijan cooperates with leading countries in robotics development - ministry
CNPC subsidiary opens tender in Turkmenistan for purchase of electrical materials
Deutsche Bank supports its Kazakhstan-based partner banks amid COVID-19 crisis
Turkey’s support of Georgia’s integration into NATO - crucial - Georgian FM
Azerbaijan shares data on bank deposits in foreign currency
Uzbekistan, US talk strategic partnership prospects
Panasonic to buy U.S. supply-chain software firm Blue Yonder for $7.1 bln
Iran's TPO expects trade growth
Germany’s biased attempt to undermine Azerbaijan - blatant hypocrisy - Azerbaijani political analyst
Kazakhstan-Romania trade plummets
Georgia sees surge in labor market
China-Europe Rail Transit Corridor to pass through Iran - RAI
Bank of Russia increases key rate to 5% per annum
N. Macedonia soon to ink deal for pipeline to get Azerbaijani gas
Azerbaijan sees annual decrease in deposits of local banks
Azerbaijan shares data on cotton sown area
Turkmenistan's Turkmenstandartlary opens tender for purchase of testing gas meters samples
SOCAR buys 3 oil tankers from Greek maritime corporation - sources
Iran's Mercantile Exchange to offer cars for sale
Azerbaijan's ASCO to engage tanker insurance services via tender
More joint border crossings could boost Iran-Pakistan trade ties - Chamber of Commerce
Iran's exports to Africa down
Azerbaijan hopes US Administration will not make historical mistake - Assistant to president
Iran's priority to provide COVID-19 vaccine from abroad than wait for domestic one - official
Turkey’s export of chemicals to US surges
Uzbek-Korean JV opens tender for compressors spares
Cargo turnover at Turkish Antalya Airport declines for 1Q2021
Students of Baku Higher Oil School become winners of ‘Enactus Azerbaijan Spring School’ project
Turkey discloses number of companies with Uzbek capital since early 2021
Iran receives new batch of Russian 'Sputnik V' COVID-19 vaccine
Azerbaijani IT company expands its range of solutions through int'l co-op
SpaceX rocketship launches 4 astronauts on NASA mission to space station
Turkey discloses number of Gemlik port-received ships in 2M2021
Decrease in bank lending observed in Baku and Azerbaijani districts
France should abandon OSCE MG co-chairmanship - French Senate member
Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan discuss issuing visas to drivers
TCO unveils timeframe plans for annual maintenance turnaround at Kazakhstan’s Tengiz
Azerbaijan discloses national team at Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup
Defeat in Second Karabakh War - hard psychological point for Armenia, says Russian analyst
Germany ready to take part in gas production expansion projects in Kazakhstan
Uzbekistan's gold and foreign exchange reserves keep declining
Share of non-budgetary organizations in compulsory social insurance receipts increases in Azerbaijan
TOP-10 importers of Azerbaijani oil in 1Q2021
Uzbekistan’s volume of received cross-border transfers increases
Georgian reveals volume of funds spent on utility bill subsidy
Georgia, Ukraine to issue electronic permits for int'l cargo transport
Kazakhstan decreases production of raw sulfur over 1Q2021
Uzbekistan eyes exporting fresh and dried fruit, vegetable products to Latvia
Georgia increases imports of cars from Turkey
International Forum on Attracting Investment in Oil, Gas Industry of Turkmenistan select sponsor
JOCAP details plans for platform around Oil Rocks
Russia records another 8,840 coronavirus cases
JOCAP updates on progress in operations of PLBH for Absheron project
Turkey reduces exports of grain, legumes to Turkmenistan
Azerbaijan's State Committee on Property Issues to hold auction for state properties
Kazakh gas producing company opens tender for hydraulic fracturing services
YARAT Contemporary Art Space presents major project - 1st edition of Baku Street Photography Festival
Georgia reports 1,271 new cases of coronavirus for April 23
Purchasing power of Azerbaijani Nakhchivan's population improves for 1Q2021
Options for diversifying sources for Southern Gas Corridor
Uzbekistan reveals share of agricultural, forestry, fish output for 1Q2021
Georgian Railway increases cargo transportation
Armenia's PM interested in continuing co-op with Soros Foundation - expert
All news