Undersecretary Burns Heads to Geneva for Iran Nuclear Talks

July 18, 2008 Updated: October 1, 2015

Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns will be heading to Geneva to discuss Iran's nuclear program.  (Mark Wilson/Getty Images )
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns will be heading to Geneva to discuss Iran's nuclear program. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images )
U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns will join the bilateral talks continuing in Geneva this weekend on Iran’s nuclear program to hear the Iranian diplomatic response to the latest incentives package, P5+1.

The incentives package is the hope on the U.S. diplomatic front for a peaceful resolution to a halt of nuclear enrichment on the part of the Iranian government.

While previous multiparty diplomatic talks have been held, the addition of Undersecretary Burns has been seen a shift in diplomatic policy towards Iran.

His addition to the talks, is the first time in 30 years that a high ranking official has met with Iranian government officials, and was seen as the right direction for the Geneva meeting by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“Secretary Rice believes it’s a smart step to take. There’s no change in the substance, but it sends a strong signal. It sends a strong signal to our P-5+1 partners, it sends a strong signal to the world, it sends a strong signal to the Iranian government that the United States is committed to diplomacy, to finding a diplomatic solution to this issue,” said U.S. State Department Press Secretary Scott McCormack.

“It underscores the Secretary’s signature on the letter that was part of the transmittal to the Iranian government of the most recent P-5+1 offer, as I cited before, handed over in Tehran. And it also underscores again, the condition of the United States and the P-5+1 for realizing negotiations,” he added.

U.S. Sections In Tehran

A Washington, D.C. reporter for the U.K. based publication The Guardian has said the U.S. plans to establish a U.S. Sections office in Tehran next month, a step closer towards establishing a U.S. Embassy.

This report, which comes out amidst Undersecretary’s trip to Geneva for the talks, stirred speculation that U.S Sections Office would be part of additional incentives presented at the bi-lateral meeting.

Burns had suggested establishing a U.S. Sections office during testimony to Congress last week.

While the State Department had shared the fact that Secretary Rice suggested the office several weeks ago, he refused to comment on internal U.S. governmental deliberations.

“She talked about it, I think, three weeks, a month or so ago. And we’re not going to discuss internal deliberations of the U.S. Government,” said McCormick. 

We are going to, where we see opportunities to advance the national interest via foreign policy, we are going to take them. We are not going to take them, though, just for the sake of the clock,” said McCormick.

“But it is quite apparent from our efforts over the past several years that we have a real interest in reaching out to the Iranian people. And we’re doing that in a lot of different ways. We have opened up a section in Dubai that is devoted solely to watching Iran, reporting back to the Department on Iran what they see there from the Gulf. It’s a little bit like what we did with the Soviet Union prior to a diplomatic presence in the Soviet Union. I’m not trying to imply any parallels there beyond that, in terms of follow-on actions.” 

The State Department also announced yesterday Secretary Rice would be making a international trip, including a stop over in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

The stop over is being hosted by the Foreign Minister of Abu Dhabi, and is suspected to be part of additional informal talks on Iran.

Undersecretary Burns will stop-over in Abu Dhabi on Sunday after the multiparty talks in Geneva.