(Reuters) – The U.S. State Department said on Monday it might talk with Iran about promoting regional stability, noting it had been open to including Iran in past efforts to achieve a Syrian peace deal if Tehran had altered its policy.
But it drew a distinction between talking to Iran about issues beyond its nuclear program and actually working with Tehran on such matters, something Washington has ruled out.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf made the comments when asked about a call by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif in a New York Times opinion piece for regional dialogue to address the crises in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
Washington was put in an awkward position since it blames Tehran for much of the instability and because it does not wish to upset Gulf Arab allies who fear a nuclear deal being negotiated with Iran may pave the way to a wider U.S.-Iranian entente.
The State Department appeared to be treading a careful line so as to not shut the door entirely to dialogue with Iran while not alienating Gulf Arab allies like Saudi Arabia, which believes Iran is bent on regional domination.
Asked if the United States might discuss regional issues as it has in the past with Iran if Tehran pursued policies more in line with U.S. objectives, Harf replied: “Maybe.”