Iran says nuclear talks will stay focused despite Yemen crisis

Islamic Extremism

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, speaks with Ernest Moniz, US Secretary of Energy, right, as they walk outside the hotel during a break from a bilateral meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for a new round of Nuclear Iran Talks, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Friday, March 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Keystone,Jean-Christophe Bott)

Iran’s foreign minister sought to dismiss concerns Friday that his country’s preoccupation with the crisis in Yemen could pre-empt attempts to find common ground at nuclear talks with six world powers, saying the negotiations remained focused on sealing a deal.

Yemen is “the hot issue of the day” and has come up at the talks but “it doesn’t mean that we negotiated about it,” Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters.

Saudi-led air strikes on Shiite rebels in Yemen are straining relations between the Sunni Gulf kingdom and predominantly Shiite Iran. Zarif said they “have to stop and everybody has to encourage dialogue and national reconciliation.”

Despite Iran’s concerns over Yemen, however, “our negotiations are confined to the nuclear” issue, he said.

Zarif spoke shortly after his first meeting of the day with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The sides are hoping to narrow gaps in time to reach a preliminary deal by the end of the month. That would allow them to try and negotiate a comprehensive agreement by late June to put long-term curbs on Tehran’s nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iranian officials have been upbeat recently about the chances of making enough progress by Tuesday to permit them to proceed into the summer. But Zarif was less bullish Friday, saying only that he hoped the sides would come to a common understanding by next week.

“The talks are very difficult and very complicated,” he told Iranian TV.