US President Barack Obama called on the Iranian leadership and people in a video message Thursday to take nuclear talks as a historical opportunity to mend ties between the two countries.
The president's video message celebrating Nowruz, which marks the beginning of spring in Iran and other countries, stressed the negotiations between world powers and Tehran on its controversial nuclear program.
"I want to take this opportunity once again to speak directly to the people and leaders of Iran," Obama said. "This year, we have the best opportunity in decades to pursue a different future between our countries."
He said that for decades, the two nations had been separated by mistrust and fear, adding that there was a chance to make progress which would benefit both countries.
Obama said that over a year ago, the permanent members of UN Security Council plus Germany, or P5+1 countries, reached an initial understanding with Iran regarding its nuclear program.
The days and weeks ahead would be critical, the president said, as the negotiations are expected to produce a framework of a comprehensive agreement by the end of March while "gaps remain."
"And there are people, in both our countries and beyond, who oppose a diplomatic resolution. My message to you — the people of Iran — is that, together, we have to speak up for the future we seek," Obama added.
Besides hardliners in the Islamic Republic, many members of the US Congress — mostly Republicans — are critical to the nuclear talks.
Recently, a group of 47 American Senators sent an open letter to the leadership of Iran, saying that any agreement to be reached will not persist after President Obama leaves the White House in 2016 as the new president and Congress will block it.
In his message, Obama reiterated that the nuclear issue should be resolved via diplomacy.
"So there is a way for Iran — if it is willing to take meaningful, verifiable steps — to assure the world that its nuclear program is, in fact, for peaceful purposes only," he said.
Tehran denies allegations that its seeks to produce nuclear weapons and insists that its program is solely for peaceful purposes.
The top US and Iranian diplomats met for the fourth day in a row in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Thursday, to reach a deal before an end of March deadline for a framework agreement.
The White House said Tuesday that there is at best a 50 percent chance of succeeding in talks.
Obama said Iran’s leaders had a choice between two paths: Either they would fail to reach an agreement and keep Iran isolated from the world, or they will agree on "a reasonable deal" which will bring "greater opportunities for the Iranian people. More trade and ties with the world. More foreign investment and jobs, including for young Iranians.
"This is what’s at stake today. And this moment may not come again soon," he added.
The president concluded his message in Persian saying "Nowruzetan Pirooz" — Happy Nowruz in Persian.
Nowruz is proclaimed as a day to promote peace and solidarity, and marks the first day of spring and the renewal of nature. It is celebrated in Iran, Turkey and several Turkic republics, including others. It was included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009 by UNESCO. Various myths exist for Nowruz in Iranian mythology.
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