Rex Tillerson
Rex Tillerson Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hinted on Saturday that direct talks with Iran were a possibility, though he stressed that he would take with his Iranian counterpart “at the right time”.

“I’ve never shut off the phone to anyone that wants to talk or have a productive conversation,” Tillerson said of Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, speaking at a joint press conference in Riyadh with Saudi Arabian Foreign Adel al-Jubeir.

“At this point, I have no plans to call my counterpart in Iran, although in all likelihood, we will talk at the right time,” he added, according to Bloomberg news.

His comments come after Friday’s presidential elections in Iran, in which incumbent Hassan Rouhani was re-elected for a second term.

Tillerson and Jubeir had tough words for Iran after the election results, saying they wanted to see action, not just rhetoric from Tehran’s re-elected president, noted Bloomberg.

Rouhani, 68, won a second term easily over conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi. The margin of victory was seen as an endorsement of his efforts since 2013 to steer the nation out of isolation through its landmark nuclear deal with world powers.

During the presidential election campaign, President Donald Trump was highly critical of the Iran nuclear deal, saying it was “disastrous” and pledging to annul it.

After he was sworn in as president, Trump described the nuclear deal as “the worst deal I’ve ever seen negotiated” and accused the Islamic Republic of “disrespecting” the United States because of the deal.

Tillerson himself recently criticized the nuclear deal as a failure, announcing that the Trump administration is conducting a “comprehensive review” of the agreement.

He said at the time that the Iran deal “fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran,” and only delays it becoming a nuclear state.

On Saturday, at the joint press conference with Jubeir, Tillerson said he wants Rouhani to “begin a process of dismantling Iran’s network of terrorism, dismantling its financing of the terrorist network, dismantling of the manning and the logistics and everything that they provide to these destabilizing forces that exist in this region.”

“That’s what we hope this election will bring. I’m not going to comment on my expectation,” he added.

Jubeir declined to offer an opinion on the likely impact of Rouhani’s re-election, saying that who Iran chooses for its leader is its own business.

“We continue to base our policy on Iran on its deeds,” he stressed, adding that Iran’s behavior is not that of “a country that wants others to treat it with respect.”

“If Iran wants to be a normal country, it has to act in accordance with international law,” said Jubeir.

During the negotiations between Iran and world powers, Saudi Arabia and other major Sunni states expressed concern over a deal which would allow Iran to produce nuclear weapons – a position which placed them very close to Israel’s position on the matter.

Ultimately, however, Saudi Arabia's government announced that it welcomed the deal.

Did you find a mistake in the article or inappropriate advertisement? Report to us