President Obama says U.S. has responsibility to pursue diplomacy with Iran

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday that despite significant concerns that will need to be overcome, the U.S. has a responsibility to pursue diplomacy with Iran.

President Obama made the remarks on Friday as part of a statement from the White House after a phone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. He said the two of them discussed ongoing efforts to come to an agreement over Iran's nuclear program. President Obama directed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to continue the diplomatic effort with Iran.

"We're mindful of all the challenges ahead," President Obama said. "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."

President Obama said he believes there is a basis for a comprehensive solution. He said he made it clear to Rouhani that the U.S. respects the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy as long as the country meets its international 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," President Obama said. "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."

The President said a path to a meaningful agreement will be difficult, but he said the U.S. has a unique opportunity to make progress with Iran's new leadership.