MUNICH — Iran's foreign minister held rare private talks with his U.S. counterpart on Sunday and said it would be a "disaster" if Tehran did not turn a provisional agreement to defuse a decade-old dispute over its nuclear program into a permanent deal.
In a sign of the thawing climate between the Islamic Republic and the West, Iran's Mohammad Javad Zarif said he had held bilateral talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as with other ministers from the six powers negotiating with Tehran, during a three-day security conference in Munich.
His talks looked forward to negotiations starting in Vienna on February 18 when Iran and the six powers will attempt over a period of six months to build on an interim agreement on Tehran's nuclear activities to reach a definitive deal.
"What I can promise is that we will go to those negotiations with the political will and good faith to reach an agreement because it would be foolish for us to only bargain for six months," Zarif told the conference after his meeting with Kerry.
"That would be a disaster for everybody - to start a process and then to abruptly end it within six months," he said.
Zarif said Iran and the West had an historic opportunity to improve relations. "I think we need to seize it," he said.
Under a landmark preliminary deal with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany sealed last November, Iran agreed to halt its most sensitive nuclear operations in return for winning some relief from sanctions.
The deal has lessened the risk of Israel or the United States launching a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities to prevent Tehran acquiring a nuclear bomb.