STATE DEPARTMENT - Iran's concerns about its perceived lack of sanctions relief and Syria's faltering political talks will be focal points for Secretary of State John Kerry when he sits down for talks Tuesday with his Iranian counterpart.
Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet in New York, at the start of a trip for Kerry that will include stops in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Iranian officials have complained that their country is not getting the sanctions relief specified in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the landmark nuclear agreement that was implemented in January.
"All of the countries should take necessary measures to remove the obstacles to the implementation of the nuclear deal," Zarif said at a Saturday news conference with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
"We have seen the Americans' attitude, so we will put some pressure on them, so should the EU, to pave the way for cooperation between the non-U.S. banks and Iran," he added.
The U.S. has been "fulfilling" its commitment to the JCPOA, said White House spokesman John Earnest on Friday. He said giving Iran access to the U.S. financial system was "not part of the deal."
At the State Department on Monday, spokesman John Kirby acknowledged that he expects the sanctions issue to be on Tuesday's agenda for Kerry and Zarif.
"We are obviously aware of the concerns that they have expressed about the status of sanctions relief, and the secretary is very mindful that this topic will come up," he said.
Ahead of the talks, Kerry said in a speech to the pro-Israel group J Street that Iran has so far received about $3 billion as a result of the deal to constrain the Iranian nuclear program. He said that is far less than figures given by critics and reiterated that the agreement showed the power of prioritizing diplomacy.
"Despite the skeptics' most dire predictions, we are in a place that some people thought was unimaginable and others unacceptable," Kerry said.
The meeting between Kerry and Zarif also comes at a time when the U.N.-facilitated process for a political transition in Syria appears to be showing signs of fray.
Their meeting also comes at a time when the U.N.-facilitated process for a political transition in Syria appears to be showing signs of fray.
The Syrian opposition announced that it has postponed its participation in the political talks because of what it says are the Syrian government's cease-fire violations.
The two sides have been holding indirect talks in Geneva.
Iran supports the Syrian government while the U.S. has supported the moderate opposition. But Tehran and Washington are part of the International Syria Support Group, which has been backing the process for a political transition.
After his meeting with Zarif, Kerry travels to Cairo, where he will discuss bilateral and regional issues with officials including President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
He then will join U.S. President Barack Obama in Riyadh for a Gulf Cooperation Council summit.