Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has expressed interest in restoring U.S.-Iran relations, yet failed to meet with President Barack Obama at the UN General Assembly. Jamal Abdi, Policy Director at the National Iranian American Council, talked to HuffPost Live’s Ahmed Shihab-Eldin about Rouhani’s message for the American people.
There was much fanfare about a potential meeting between President Obama and his Iranian counterpart at the UN General Assembly. Though it never occurred, the historic moment would have marked the first meeting between the country’s leaders since 1977.
In his interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Rouhani explained that the meeting was impossible due to time constraints.
Abdi was quick to point out that the absence of a formal handshake between Obama and Rouhani was actually beneficial, in that it placed the focus on upcoming diplomatic talks between the U.S. Secretary of State and Iran’s Foreign Minister.
“Those are going to be substantive talks. This is a big deal,” he said, “It’s not necessarily as sexy as having the two presidents shaking hands, but...I think that this is actually where the opportunity is for negotiations.”
Obama mentioned Iran more than any other country in his fifth speech before the UN General Assembly. Many felt that this was an important first step in including Iran in the global conversation about the conflict in Syria.
“I think that the U.S. is leading the way in terms of saying that Iran should be at the table potentially for negotiations for Syria," Abdi told Shihab-Eldin, "This was previously not the position of the United States. Now hopefully, Iran will be at the table."