Obama and Rouhani Speak By Phone

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Sept. 27 2013 4:19 PM

Obama and Rouhani Speak By Phone

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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: President Barack Obama addresses the press in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House September 27, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

So, there may not have been a sitdown or a handshake this week, but there was a rather historic diplomatic development, as President Barack Obama announced this afternoon that he had spoken with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran by phone. It was the first direct communication between presidents of the two countries since 1979. It also comes after Rouhani had told the press that he “didn’t have enough time” for a face-to-face meeting with Obama.

Obama said in his announcement that he believes a comprehensive deal on Iran’s nuclear program is possible and that progress is being made ahead of next month’s P5+1 meetings in Geneva.

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According to a statement on the Iranian presidential website, the two presidents talked while Rouhani was being driven to the airport and “stressed the necessity for mutual cooperation on different regional issues.”

The Twitter account that may or may not be actually associated with Rouhani’s office provided a bit of color, saying that Rouhani had ended the conversation by saying, "have a nice day," to which Obama replied, "Khodahafez," a Persian parting phrase.

Again, there’s plenty of reason for pessimism heading into nuclear talks. But this week featured the most movement seen on U.S.-Iran diplomacy in years. Shortly after discussing the phone call, Obama switched gears to discuss the looming potential government shutdown, underlining the fact that for once, all the progress this week was made on the international stage.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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