Kerry and new Iran FM Zarif to meet in NY

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New York__ US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet face to face on Thursday, at a meeting of foreign ministers from six world powers and Iran.

The decision to include Zarif in the P5+1 ministerial meeting was announced by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, after she met for the first time with Zarif Monday in New York.

“What I saw today was the energy and determination” of Zarif and his team to move talks forward, Ashton told journalists after their meeting at the United Nations Monday.

Kerry welcomes Zarif’s “commitment to a substantive response and to his agreement to meeting in the short term with permanent UN Security Council members and Germany coordinated by EU High Representative Ashton to discuss the nuclear program,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Monday.

Ashton and Zarif “talked about a number of issues,” with the discussion “focused on the nuclear issue,” she said. In addition to agreeing that Zarif would join the P5+1 ministerial meeting on Thursday, at 4pm, the two negotiators agreed that their two teams will meet again in Geneva in October, Ashton said.

Meantime, a spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told Al-Monitor Monday that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been invited to attend a luncheon that Ban is hosting for visiting heads of state Tuesday. UN spokesman Martin Nesky said he wasn’t yet sure if Rouhani plans to attend. Rouhani is due to arrive in New York later on Monday.

President Obama plans to attend the lunch, following a meeting with Ban on Tuesday, the White House said last week.

“We hope that the new Iranian government will engage substantively with the international community to reach a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program and to cooperate fully with the IAEA in its investigation,” Psaki said. “We remain ready to work with Iran should the Rouhani administration choose to engage seriously.”

Obama is due to address the UN General Assembly Tuesday morning. Rouhani is scheduled to address the body Tuesday afternoon.