Iran nuclear talks: Citizen diplomacy would build trust
As the next round of nuclear talks between Iran and the world powers begins today in Almaty, Kazakhstan, both Iran and the United States should encourage their citizens – clerics, scientists, athletes, doctors, artists, businessmen, and teachers – to meet and work together.
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“The Islamic Republic of Iran bears no hostile intentions towards Americans and the Iranian people not only harbor no enmity, but indeed have respect for the great American people,” says a September 1999 letter from Tehran in response to President Clinton’s letter to President Khatami in June 1999.Skip to next paragraph
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Many recent statements from the Iranian government have echoed this sentiment. And, as Obama said in his Nowruz address of March 2012, “There is no reason for the United States and Iran to be divided from one another….I want the Iranian people to know that America seeks a dialogue to hear your views and understand your aspirations….[T]he people of Iran should know that the United States of America seeks a future of deeper connections between our people…in which mistrust and fear are overcome by mutual understanding and our common hopes as human beings.”
Both the Iranian and American governments claim that there is no tension between their respective peoples. We ask our governments to encourage people-to-people relations and enable their citizens to put what are now only words into positive deeds of friendship.
Facilitating tourism, academic, humanitarian, media, cultural, economic and social activities, and parliamentarian exchanges will lay the foundation for a durable and sustainable relationship based on mutual respect and common interests.
While Iran and the US work toward serious negotiations, we call on the two governments to open the doors for the people of the two nations to engage now.
Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian is a research scholar at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School and a former spokesman for Iran’s nuclear negotiators. He was Iran’s ambassador to Germany from 1990-1997. His latest book is “The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: A Memoir,” published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Ambassador William Green Miller is the senior advisor on the US-Iran Program for the nongovernmental organization Search for Common Ground and a senior public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He was US ambassador to Ukraine from 1993-1998. His direct experience with Iran dates to 1959 when he began his US Foreign Service career first in Isfahan and then Tehran.