Iranian President Hassan Rohani addressed the UN General Assembly on Tuesday shortly after President Barack Obama propounded America’s foreign policy. They didn’t meet. Washington has viewed Tehran dimly since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The freshly-elected moderate Rohani took steps to brighten prospects, saying: “Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region. In fact, in ideas and practice, my country has been a harbour of justice and comprehensive security.”
In euronews Lyon headquarters, the head of the English language service, Nial O’Reilly, linked up with our colleague in the US.
O’Reilly said: “Our Washington correspondent, Stefan Grobe, has been analysing Tuesday’s developments at the UN… he joins us now. We’ve had some time to reflect on President Rohani’s apparently conciliatory speech at the UN. What was the key message? What was he telling the world about Iran today?”
Stefan Grobe: “I think the speech was partly aimed at the international community and partly at Rohani’s own domestic audience. He preached tolerance and understanding and, of course, reiterated his position that nuclear weapons had no future in Iran. But then he offered no specific proposal to reach a compromise on the nuclear issue. For domestic consumption, he criticized the Western sanctions, as they have led to Iran’s economic isolation and suffering.”
Rohani’s tone was in marked contrast to his predecessor’s; Rohani was reaching out.
Rohani said: “Iran seeks constructive engagement with other countries based on mutual respect and common interest, and, within the same framework, does not seek to increase tensions with the United States.”
Nial: “How has it been received by the Obama Administration, and indeed Americans generally?”
Grobe: “The administration is probably a bit disappointed that there was no handshake. They told the Iranians privately that the Americans were open to having informal discussions on the margins of the General Assembly, not a bilateral meeting. But that proved to be too complicated for the Iranians to do at this point. So there is a bit of disappointment, but also some scepticism, especially among pro-Israel members of Congress.”
Tweeted remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were blunt; he called the speech cynical and hypocritical, dismissing Rohani’s charm drive on the grounds that Iran’s policies toward Israel have not changed.