EghtesadOnline: President Hassan Rouhani stands behind and completely approves of the performance of Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif who unexpectedly announced his resignation on Monday, the presidential chief of staff said.
The architect of Iran’s 2015 landmark nuclear deal with world powers said on Instagram that he would step down, without giving any specific reasons for his decision.
In a meeting with bank managers held in Tehran on Tuesday, the president thanked Zarif, Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh and Central Bank of Iran's Governor Abdolnasser Hemmati for their central role in confronting the United States, ISNA reported.
He did not mention the chief diplomat’s resignation in his speech, Financial Truibune reported.
Rouhani’s chief of staff, Mahmoud Vaezi, “strongly” denied on Twitter that the president had accepted Zarif’s resignation.
“Today’s remarks by the president in which he appreciated the foreign minister are clear proof that the representative of the Iranian nation is completely satisfied with the wise and effective stance and performance of Dr. Zarif. It was a strong response to those who offer incorrect and biased analyses,” he said.
“In Dr. Rouhani’s opinion, the Islamic Republic of Iran has only one foreign policy and one foreign minister.”
In his Instagram post, which soon drew global attention and prompted calls for him to reverse his decision, the top diplomat wrote, “Many thanks for the generosity of the dear and brave people of Iran and its authorities over the past 67 months. I sincerely apologize for the inability to continue serving and for all the shortcomings during my service. Be happy and proud!”
Born in 1960, Zarif lived in the United States from the age of 17 and studied in San Francisco and Denver, and subsequently as a diplomat to the United Nations in New York, where he served as Iranian ambassador from 2002 to 2007.
He was appointed minister of foreign affairs in August 2013 after Rouhani won the presidency in a landslide on a promise to open up Iran to the outside world.
Officials from different parts of Iran’s political spectrum have called on the foreign minister, who has always championed greater diplomatic engagement with the world, to withdraw his resignation.
Shortly after Zarif’s announcement, media reports began circulating about other diplomats’ decisions to step down if the foreign minister’s resignation is accepted.
However, he was quoted as urging Foreign Ministry employees and Iranian diplomats in a message not to follow suit.
“It was an honor to serve alongside you. I hope my resignation would act as a wakeup call and help return the ministry to its deserved status in the area of foreign relations,” he said.
Syrian President’s Visit
Some media outlets have speculated that his resignation had something to do with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s surprise visit to Tehran on Monday.
According to the Entekhab news website, Zarif responded to a reporter’s text message asking whether he had resigned, saying, “After the photos of today’s meetings, Javad Zarif has no credit in the world as a foreign minister.”
Zarif did not appear in any of the coverage of the visit, a sign that could possibly signify disagreements between top officials.
Some unconfirmed reports said the foreign minister had not been informed about the visit.
Arya News Agency quoted the US-educated minister as saying that he harbors “no personal resentment” toward anyone.
“As foreign minister, I had to react to the failure to respect the status of Foreign Ministry for the sake of national interest and the country’s might. These speculations are just a figment of people’s imagination,” he said.
In an interview with the Persian newspaper Jomhouri Eslami published on Tuesday, Zarif said fighting between parties and factions in Iran is a “deadly poison” undermining foreign policy.
In a letter addressed to the president that was read out in an open session of the parliament, 135 lawmakers called Zarif “the most diligent, the most popular and the most efficient” minister in Rouhani’s Cabinet and asked him to continue as foreign minister.
They also demanded that the president reject his resignation, saying that Zarif’s departure would only “make the Islamic Republic’s sworn enemies happy”. Many other politicians also urged Zarif to reconsider his decision.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a post on Twitter, slammed Zarif and Rouhani, saying, “Our policy is unchanged—the regime must behave like a normal country and respect its people,” Reuters reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced satisfaction over the resignation of Iran’s top diplomat in a Twitter post, saying, “Zarif has gone. Good riddance!”
As lead negotiator of the nuclear deal, Zarif’s standing within the country’s political establishment took a hit when the US withdrew from it last year. The Trump administration’s subsequent aggressive use of sanctions against Iran has severely undercut the economic benefits Iran expected, leading to frustration within the country.
Since taking charge of Iran’s nuclear talks with major powers in late 2013, Zarif has been summoned to parliament several times by conservative lawmakers to explain the negotiations. They even tried to impeach him, only backing down in December as the initiative lost steam.