Washington: Washington and Tehran open their first substantial talks in 27 years in Baghdad on 28 May 2007, with both countries setting modest goals and limiting discussions to ways to quell the chaos in Iraq.
US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker is set to meet Iranian ambassador Hassan Kazemi in the highest-level official bilateral talks between the two sides since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
US ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, left, walks with an aide at al-Asad airbase near the city of Hit in Anbar province in Iraq. Crocker will lead talks with Iran aimed at restoring security to Iraq.
The United States and Iran broke off diplomatic relations in 1980 after radical students stormed the US embassy in Tehran and held its diplomats hostage for 444 days.
State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the talks would be held “in Baghdad, at an Iraqi government facility,” giving no further details for security reasons.
An Iraqi representative will join them at the start of the talks, which will then continue behind closed doors. There will be no official statement, but Crocker said there could be a press conference at the US embassy after the event.
The meeting follows a brief encounter between US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and her Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, on 4 May 2007 at a conference on Iraq held at the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
“Bad relations between the two countries does not serve Iraq, and Iraq has paid the price for the tension between the two countries,” said Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Washington accuses Tehran of fomenting violence by arming and training radical Shiite militias. Tehran in turn says that peace will not be restored in Iraq until US forces leave.
Despite the strong symbolism, the meeting will likely yield limited results, said Anthony Cordesman, with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think-tank.
“Iran’s position on meeting with the US to talk about Iraq has been hostile beyond the usual standards of pre-conference posturing and leverage,” said Cordesman.
Cordesman said the recent arrest in Iran of at least three Iranian-American researchers accused of working to undermine the Islamic regime were “a grim warning that dialogue with this Iranian government may have very little near-term benefits.”
US forces are also holding five Iranians arrested on January 11 in the northern city of Arbil. Iran says the men are diplomats, but US officials suspect they are involved in supplying advanced roadside bombs to Iraqi insurgents to use against US forces.