US President Barack Obama has talked to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the first direct contact between the two countries’ leaders in 36 years.
President Obama noted the historic nature of the 11 minute conversation, when he announced it in White House briefing on Friday night.
He said this was a unique opportunity to make progress with Iran over the issue of nuclear weapons that has isolated it from the West, and caused heavy economic sanctions to be laid on country.
Obstacles around Iran’s nuclear programme remained President Obama told the Iranian leader, but he was optimistic:
“I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution,” he said.
“I’ve made clear that we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy in the context of Iran meeting its obligations. So the test will be meaningful, transparent and verifiable actions, which can also bring relief from the comprehensive international sanctions that are currently in place.”
Rouhani told Obama to “Have a good day Mr President!” at the end of the phone call, according to an official Iranian Twitter feed, and Obama responded with “Thank you. Khodahafez (goodbye in Farsi).”
The Israeli government had been pre-warned about the phone call, according to a senior US administration official, and will be kept informed on the progress of negotiations.