BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina and Iran will keep talking until they resolve diplomatically sensitive issues stemming from two 1990s attacks on Jewish targets in Buenos Aires that were allegedly sponsored by Tehran, both countries said on Thursday.
Dialogue with Tehran is risky for Argentina, even if the focus is on Tehran’s possible culpability in a pair of bombings. The opening of a diplomatic channel with Tehran could anger the United States and Israel, which are seeking to isolate Iran as it appears to pursue nuclear weapons.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez surprised the United Nations General Assembly this week by announcing the talks.
The foreign ministers of the two countries held their first meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York. They issued a statement saying their lawyers will meet next month in Geneva.
“The goal is to explore a legal mechanism that does not go against the systems of either Argentina or Iran,” the statement said. “This process will continue until a mutually agreed solution is found to all issues concerning the case.”
Argentine courts have accused Iran of sponsoring a 1994 attack on a Buenos Aires Jewish center that killed 85 people.
That assault came two years after a group linked to Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah claimed responsibility for a bombing attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29. Tehran has denied links to either attack.
Talking with Iran is a gamble for Fernandez, whose popularity has fallen since her October 2011 re-election. Argentina is home to Latin America’s largest Jewish population.
“The risks for Argentina at the domestic and international level are high,” said Ignacio Labaqui, a political science professor at the Catholic University of Argentina.
“Approaching Iran is not the best signal that the government can send to the U.S. and Israel,” he added. “For Iran though, this is a diplomatic success. Any measure reducing isolationism is good for Iran.”
Speculation over a possible Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear installations has increased in recent months. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also come under fire recently for anti-Israeli rhetoric, including his statement on Monday that Israel will be “eliminated.
Guillermo Borger, head of Argentina’s AMIA Jewish association, the headquarters of which was bombed in the 1994 attack, told local radio that talking with Iran was an “improbable and absolutely unreliable” approach to seeking justice over the attacks.
Reporting By Hugh Bronstein; editing by Todd Eastham