READ AND WATCH: Obama reveals historic phone call with Iran’s president

September 27, 2013

President Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by phone on Thursday afternoon, the first direct communication between the presidents of the two countries since before the 1979 Iranian revolution set off three-plus decades of enmity. The call was historic in itself, as well as a symbolically significant step toward the nuclear deal and larger detente that both leaders profess to seek. Here is the video and transcript of Obama's surprise announcement.

Before I discuss the situation in Congress, let me say a few things about two important opportunities in our foreign policy. Just now, I spoke on the phone with President Rouhani of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The two of us discussed our ongoing efforts to reach an agreement over Iran's nuclear program. I reiterated to President Rouhani what I said in New York. While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution.

I've directed Secretary Kerry to continue pursuing this diplomatic effort with the Iranian government. We had constructive discussions yesterday in New York with our partners, the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China, together with the Iranian foreign minister.

Going forward, President Rouhani and I have directed our teams to continue working expeditiously in cooperation with the P-5-plus-1 to pursue an agreement. And throughout this process, we'll stay in close touch with our friends and allies in the region, including Israel.

Now, we're mindful of all the challenges ahead. The very fact that this was the first communication between an American and Iranian president since 1979 underscores the deep mistrust between our countries, but it also indicates the prospect of moving beyond that difficult history. I do believe that there is a basis for a resolution. Iran's supreme leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons. President Rouhani has indicated that Iran will never develop nuclear weapons.

I've made clear that we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy in the context of Iran meeting its obligations. So the test will be meaningful, transparent and verifiable actions, which can also bring relief from the comprehensive international sanctions that are currently in place.

Resolving this issue obviously could also serve as a major step forward in a new relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect. It would also help facilitate a better relationship between Iran and the international community, as well as others in the region, one that would help the Iranian people fulfill their extraordinary potential, but also help us address other concerns that could bring greater peace and stability to the Middle East.

A path to a meaningful agreement will be difficult. And at this point, both sides have significant concerns that will have to be overcome. But I believe we've got a responsibility to pursue diplomacy, and that we have a unique opportunity to make progress with the new leadership in Tehran. I also communicated to President Rouhani my deep respect for the Iranian people.

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Max Fisher | September 27, 2013