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December 04, 2013

Kerry, Ashton Discuss Next Steps in Iran Nuclear Deal, Syria Talks

by Scott Stearns

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton met at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss plans for Syrian peace talks and the next steps in a deal to limit Iran's nuclear program. 
 
The more immediate of the two is the upcoming Geneva talks, which aim to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis. With both the government in Damascus and the main rebel coalition now agreeing to attend, remaining obstacles include who else will be invited.
 
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad wants Iran to take part, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif has said that Tehran will come if invited. However, the United States and European Union have said Iran must first agree to the foundation of these talks – primarily, that they will name a transitional power with full executive authority, thereby ending President Assad's current tenure.
 
Iran joining talks on Syria may be more likely following last week's deal to limit Iran's nuclear program. In Brussels on Wednesday, Kerry thanked Ashton for her work on that deal.
 
"Her efforts in Geneva with respect to the initial Iran first step have been key. And now we are going to talk about how we proceed to try to move towards the comprehensive agreement as well as some other important issues that we face," said Kerry.
 
Ashton characterized the partnership between the EU and the U.S. as an important one.
 
"The work that we do between the European Union and the U.S. on so many issues, of which Iran is one of the greatest examples but by no means the only example, is crucial. We share the same values. We work together to try and deliver for people across the world," said Ashton.
 
Political directors and technical experts from the United States, Russia, France, China, Germany, and Britain are working with Iran to come to an agreement regarding Iran’s controversial nuclear program. Currently both sides have six months to come to a more comprehensive agreement. During this period, Iran has agreed to eliminate its stockpiles of highly-enriched uranium and stop work on a plutonium reactor in exchange for relief from some international banking and oil sanctions.