A few months back, it would have made front-page headlines around the world. Now, the encounter between Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines of this weekend's Munich Security Conference, is largely being presented as "routine" diplomacy in Persian newspapers.
Monday's edition of reformist Aftab-e Yazd reported cited sources saying that while the two nations' top diplomats met on Sunday, staffers were finalizing details to allow direct exportation of goods from the U.S. to Iran for the first time in decades.
The possible breakthrough comes within the context of the recent relaxation of UN sanctions against Iran, as part of the still cautious détente taking place between Iran and Western powers after years of diplomatic standoff over Iran's nuclear program.
The Tehran daily could not immediately confirm that the deal was sealed, but reported that Iranian trade officials had been notified that an unnamed U.S. firm had expressed readiness about exporting goods — including medical equipment — to Iran.
It is just the latest sign of progress that many Iranians are hoping to read in coming weeks or months. The daily cited Tehran-based academic Sadeq Zibakalam as saying that decades of hostility between the U.S. and Iran would not disappear "overnight," and both sides had to remain cautious in their statements, lest they provoke recalcitrant political elements in their respective states.
But Zibakalam said "the meetings between Zarif and John Kerry are correct steps toward the normalization of relations." He cautioned however that it was highly unlikely that the U.S. embassy in Tehran would be reopen during the current administration of Hassan Rouhani.
Such a move he said would provoke an "identity crisis" among veteran revolutionaries and regime radicals. The United States closed its embassy in Tehran in late 1979, after a hostage crisis that year following the Iranian revolution.
Aftab-e Yazd cited the reserved assessment of some Iranian parliamentarians on the consequences of such contacts. Vahid Fayyazi, a conservative legislator, said talks between Zarif and Kerry would "definitely" not lead to a renewal of relations, because of the absence of the "underlying bases" for ties, and because the two states were unlikey to reach a "common point" in their diplomacy any time soon.
Photo: Near the southern Iranian port of Assalouyeh — Ahmad Halabisaz/Xinhua/ZUMA