Iran's President Hassan Rouhani
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani Reuters

Despite being the leading state sponsor of terrorism, Iran should play a "major role" in the Middle East according to EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini on Tuesday.

Mogherini spoke to reporters ahead of a meeting in New York with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif focused on finalizing the nuclear deal reached this month and regional crises.

A final nuclear deal with Iran "could open the way to a different role for Iran in the region," Mogherini told reporters at UN headquarters.

Arguing that it would be "naive" to ignore the Islamic republic, Mogherini said the best approach would be to "call on Iran to play a major, a major, but positive role in the region."

Iran has been expanding control in the region via terrorist proxies, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Shi'ite Houthi militia in Yemen, Shi'ite militias in Iraq and its own troops as well as Hezbollah in Syria.

On Syria in particular, Iran can "encourage the regime to participate in a Syrian-led transition," Mogherini said.

Iran has been spending $35 billion a year to prop up President Bashar al-Assad's regime, with experts revealing it does so to maintain a route by which to deliver weapons to its Hezbollah terror proxy in Lebanon and expand its regional hegemony.

UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura will on Monday begin a new round of talksin Geneva with various parties to the Syrian conflict with a view to launching full negotiations to end the four-year war, possibly in late June.

De Mistura said Iran was invited to take part in the discussions, the first since the second Geneva conference mediated by Lakhdar Brahimi collapsed in early 2014.

But the envoy also told the Security Council during a closed-door meeting that prospects for a political transition were slim. Iran was excluded from two peace conferences held in Geneva on Syria.

Mogherini said work on finalizing the framework nuclear agreement with Iran was moving forward.

"I'm confident that we can proceed with the good work," she said of the deal which is to have all sanctions lifted on Iran, while leaving it with all of its nuclear facilities and allow it to continue enriching uranium.

Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany - are drafting a final nuclear accord due by June 30.

Iran has already made clear it doesn't intend to let inspectors access its secret nuclear facilities, and that it will use advanced centrifuges after a deal is signed which would allow it to race to obtaining a nuclear weapon. It also will be able to continue its research on rockets needed to deliver a nuclear strike.

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