Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was the lead negotiator in a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, has abruptly tendered his resignation, although there was no sign President Hassan Rouhani had accepted it.
The announcement on Instagram late on Monday by Zarif prompted reports that large numbers of diplomats were considering resigning too in a show of support. However, Zarif urged Iranian diplomats not to resign en masse following his shock announcement he was quitting but to keep up their work defending Iran’s interests.
The top diplomat was not present at any of the meetings Assad had with the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Rouhani, according to semi-official news agency ISNA.
In comments to ministry staff on Tuesday, Zarif said: “I advise all you dear brothers and sisters in the foreign ministry and embassies to resolutely follow your duties in defense of the country and refrain from such acts.” Zarif offered an apology for his “shortcomings” in the unexpected message on Instagram, with prominent members of parliament immediately calling for Rouhani not to accept the resignation.
“I apologize for my inability to continue serving and for all the shortcomings during my term in office,” Zarif said in the message posted on his verified Instagram account. He thanked Iranians and “respected officials” for their support “in the last 67 months”.
Zarif, 59, has served as Rouhani’s foreign minister since August 2013 and has been under constant pressure from hardliners who opposed his policy of detente with the West.
The official IRNA news agency said Zarif had also commented for the first time on the reason for his announcement. “I hope my resignation will act as a spur for the foreign ministry to regain its proper statutory tole in the conduct of foreign affairs,” it quoted him as saying.
There was no immediate indication President Hassan Rouhani had accepted the resignation and a petition urging him not to was signed by a majority of members of parliament, senior lawmakers said. According to Iran’s Entekhab news agency, Zarif’s resignation appears to be linked to a surprise visit by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to Tehran on Monday.
In an interview with the conservative Jomhoori Eslami newspaper published on Tuesday, he said partisan disputes over foreign policy were “a deadly poison.”
The top diplomat was not present at any of the meetings Assad had with the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Rouhani, according to semi-official news agency ISNA. Entekhab said it tried to reach Zarif and received the following message: “After the photos of today’s meetings, Javad Zarif no longer has any credibility in the world as the foreign minister!”
As the lead negotiator in the nuclear deal, Zarif’s standing within Iran’s political establishment took a hit when the US withdrew from it and reimposed crippling unilateral sanctions last year. Ultra-conservative MPs tried to impeach him, only backing down in December as the initiative lost steam.
Zarif said his main concern throughout the negotiations for the nuclear deal had been about pressure from inside Iran. In an interview with the conservative Jomhoori Eslami newspaper published on Tuesday, he said partisan disputes over foreign policy were “a deadly poison.”
© Agence France-Presse