Iran has hinted that it could step up its support for the fight against extremists like Isis if it strikes a nuclear deal with the West, as the deadline for the talks approaches.
Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, in a video posted on YouTube, said that the world’s “common challenge” was the “the growing menace of violent extremism and outright barbarism”, as he called for an end to the “unjust economic sanctions” placed on Iran.
Speaking from the balcony of the hotel in Vienna where Iran is negotiating with six major powers over its nuclear programme, Mr Zarif said he was ready to seek “new approaches” in the battle “against the hooded men who are ravaging the cradle of civilization”.
But first he called for “a balanced and good deal” in which the West chooses “agreement” over “coercion”. The deadline for a deal in the so-called six-plus-one talks is Tuesday. Officials from Iran and American – which is leading the talks for the West – are holed up this weekend in the Palais Coburg hotel in Vienna.
Philip Hammond and Laurent Fabius, the British and French foreign ministers, will join the talks on Sunday in a final big diplomatic push to reach a deal. Deadlines have already slipped, but the latest talks are seen as critical for ending the 13-year stand-off between the West and Iran over its nuclear deal, with a the Republican-controlled US Congress hostile to further talks.
Mr Zarif said in his message: “We are ready to strike a balanced and good deal; and open new horizons to address important, common challenges.
“The menace we’re facing – and I say we, because no one is spared – is embodied by the hooded men who are ravaging the cradle of civilization.
“To deal with this new challenge new approaches are badly needed. Iran has long been at the forefront in the fight against extremism. I hope my counterparts will also turn their focus, and devote their resources, to this existential battle.”
An Iranian official later told journalists that specific questions about Islamic State were “premature” but added: “I can tell you that if we cut a deal on the nuclear issue, there will be opportunities in the future for both Iran and the United States.”
Iranian-backed militia have already been helping in the fight against Isis, for example in the recent battle for the Iraqi town of Ramadi. Tehran has long-standing influence and ties to fellow Shia-led Iraq and Syria both of which are fighting internal battles against Isis.
In comments echoed by Zarif ahead of their renewed meeting on Friday evening, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the talks "are making progress." But he also spoke of "some tough issues", telling reporters: "We have a lot of work to do."
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