ISTANBUL – Iran's foreign minister said Friday that both Iran and the West need a new approach if negotiations on Iran's nuclear program are to succeed.
Mohammad Javad Zarif said at a conference on disarmament in Istanbul that a decade of failed negotiations has led to consequences neither side wanted. To Western dismay, Iran has drastically boosted its ability to enrich uranium. To Iran's detriment, international sanctions have hurt its economy.
"We have both seen the nuclear issue as a zero sum game," he said. "I hope we have come to an understanding that the approach was wrong."
The rhetoric is consistent with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's outreach to the West since he was elected in June. Zarif leads Iran's negotiating team that is set to return to talks in Geneva next week with a six-nation group: the permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany.
The West and others fear that Iran could eventually produce a nuclear weapon. Iran insists it only seeks reactors for energy and medical use.
On Friday, Zarif was on the panel with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and flew afterward for meetings in Ankara with Davutoglu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The relationship between the two countries has been strained over the civil war in Syria, with Iran backing the government of Bashar Assad and Turkey supporting the rebels. Davutoglu and Zarif each said it was in both countries' interests to contain the sectarian tension sparked by the conflict in Syria.
"As two important countries of the region, Iran and Turkey are working toward preventing ethnic and sectarian rifts," Zarif said at a joint news conference in Ankara. "We agree to work together against extremism, which is a great threat."