In its most explicit statement so far, the Obama administration — via Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — has made clear that Washington wants bilateral talks with Iran. Speaking at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center last night she said in answer to a question:
We are deeply engaged in consultations right now with our P-5+1 colleagues, looking to put together a presentation for the Iranians at the next meeting that does make it clear we’re running out of time, we’ve got to get serious, here are issues we are willing to discuss with you, but we expect reciprocity.Now, I would also add, David, that we have, from the very beginning, made it clear to the Iranians we are open to a bilateral discussion. And we have tried. You know the President tried to reach out. Dennis Ross is here. He was instrumental in those first two years in trying to create some kind of opportunity for dialogue on the nuclear issue. So far there has not yet been any meeting of the minds on that. But we remain open. And we’ve certainly tried quite hard in the P-5+1 context to have a bilateral discussion, and they’ve not been willing to do so. But we understand that it may take pushing through that obstacle to really get them fully responsive to whatever the P-5+1 offer might be. Right now, we’re working on the P-5+1 and making our willingness known that we’re ready to have a bilateral discussion if they’re ever ready to engage.