Kerry meets Iranians ahead of nuke talks

Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Iranian counterpart on Sunday ahead of the next round of nuclear talks later this month.

Kerry met with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of an international security conference in Munich. The meeting was their first encounter since a preliminary deal with Iran went into effect on Jan. 20.

“Secretary Kerry reiterated the importance of both sides negotiating in good faith and Iran abiding by its commitments under the Joint Plan of Action,” said a senior State Department official. “He also made clear that the United States will continue to enforce existing sanctions.”

The interim deal has been met with great skepticism on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are worried that it could unravel the international sanctions regime while allowing Iran to continue enriching uranium. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to grill Obama's top negotiator on Tuesday.

During the meeting, Kerry also pressed Iran to release three American citizens who are being held captive in Iran, according to the official. Amir Hekmati has been accused of being a spy and Saeed Abedini is a pastor arrested for spreading his Christian faith. The last man, Robert Levinson, is an ex-FBI agent who was on a rogue mission for the CIA, when he disappeared more than six years ago. 

Talks between Iran and the so-called “P5+1” — the U.S., Russia, China, France, Great Britain and Germany — are scheduled to resume Feb. 18 in Vienna.

Kerry tried to broach the topic of Iran ally Syria and its failure to turn over its chemical weapons arsenal in a timely fashion but was rebuffed, Al Monitor reports

“Secretary Kerry raised his concerns about the delay in moving chemical weapons to the port in Latakia, and the humanitarian situation on the ground specifically in the besieged areas,” a senior U.S. official told the online publication. “He also urged Iran to show a willingness to play a constructive role in bringing an end to the conflict.”

“Foreign Minister Zarif made clear that he did not have the authority to discuss Syria and the focus of the meeting was on the nuclear negotiations,” the U.S. official said.

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