Geneva to host Iran nuclear conference

The reactor building of Bushehr nuclear power plant, 1,245 kilometres south of the Iranian capital Tehran Keystone

A top-level conference on Iran’s nuclear programme will be held in Geneva “from October”, according to Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, speaking during the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

This content was published on September 25, 2013 - 10:09 and agencies

Burkhalter told Swiss public radio, RTS, on Tuesday that he had been in contact with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and that the dialogue would continue in Geneva “at chief negotiator level”. The meeting is still to be confirmed.

He described Switzerland as a “communication channel” in this “exercise in rapprochement”.

US President Barack Obama on Tuesday cautiously embraced overtures from Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, as the basis for a possible nuclear deal, but a failed effort to arrange a simple handshake between the two leaders underscored entrenched distrust that will be hard to overcome.

In his speech to the UN, Obama said he was determined to test Rouhani’s recent diplomatic gestures and challenged him to take concrete steps toward resolving Iran’s long-running nuclear dispute with the West.

Hours later, Rouhani used his debut at the world body to pledge Iran’s willingness to engage immediately in “time-bound” talks on the nuclear issue, but he offered no new concessions and repeated many of Iran’s grievances against the United States and Washington’s key Middle East ally, Israel.

‘City of human rights’

For his part, Swiss President Ueli Maurer complained in his speech at the General Assembly about the self-serving policies of many large countries.

Maurer, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency for one year, said that “as the representative of a neutral country with a long humanitarian tradition”, he was concerned about the return of power politics, a form of international relations in which countries protect their interests by threatening each other with military, economic or political aggression.

“Smaller countries are increasingly less accepted as partners,” he said, adding that he hoped this trend would reverse.

He also stressed the importance of sovereign countries choosing their own constitution and economic system, adding that “no countries is allowed to force its law onto another”.

Problems, he said, could be solved only through negotiation. “Sovereignty and equal rights guarantee peace, stability and good relations between all nations.”

On Tuesday, Maurer met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and discussed Geneva as an international location. “Geneva is the humanitarian capital and the city of human rights,” he declared.

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