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US-Iran Talks to Focus on Nuclear Deal, Regional Tensions

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Working out ways to implement the Iran nuclear deal and possible discussions of the Syrian conflict will be on the agenda when Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.

The two will meet Saturday in New York, where world powers are gathering for the U.N. General Assembly.

The talks on the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA], will come less than a month before October 18, known as “Adoption Day.”

“This is the time when the agreement becomes real,” said Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman.

She spoke to reporters, on Friday, as she wraps up her tenure at the State Department.

Iran nuclear deal

Adoption Day marks the start of Iran’s efforts to comply with provisions in the JCPOA.

Iran will have to reduce its uranium stockpile, remove thousands of centrifuges and make conversions at nuclear facilities to comply with the agreement.

When Iran takes these steps, and its compliance is verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the two sides will mark “Implementation Day.”

Tehran’s pay-off on this yet-to-be-determined day would be sanctions relief.

“I truthfully don’t know how it will all play out,” said Sherman.

She predicted there would be “bumps along the way.”

Syria will be UNGA focus

Sherman said the crisis in Syria would be a dominant topic at the U.N. General Assembly and would likely be discussed by Kerry and Zarif on Saturday.

“My guess is there will at least be some listening if not some talking about the other situations, including Syria,” she said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad receives support from Iran and from Russia, which has been building up its military presence in Syria.

The move puts both countries at odds with the U.S. and other Western powers that have urged President Assad to step down, to resolve the country’s civil war.

The Syrian conflict and the presence of Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq have prompted millions of Syrians to flee. Many of them are now seeking refuge in Europe.

“None of the issues on which I work are as challenging as Syria,” said Sherman.

“This is staggering complex, difficult and can’t be reduced to a simple answer,” she said.

Change of venue for Sherman

Sherman’s participation at the U.N. General Assembly will mark the end of her tenure in the third-in-command position at the State Department, a position that she said resulted in 97 trips to 54 countries.

“The world was very different four years ago,” said Sherman, referring to when she accepted the position.

Earlier this month, the White House announced that President Obama had tapped Thomas Shannon, a career diplomat, to succeed Sherman.