Zarif resigned after not being informed of Assad trip to Tehran, spokesman says

Iranian Foreign Ministry says lack of information about Syrian leader’s visit was one reason for resignation that was later rejected by country’s president

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures during a press conference in Tehran on February 13, 2019 (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures during a press conference in Tehran on February 13, 2019 (Atta Kenare/AFP)

A reason for Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s resignation, later rejected by the country’s president, was that he was not told about Syrian President Bashar Assad’s visit to Tehran, a ministry spokesman said Tuesday.

“The ministry of foreign affairs did not have information at any level [about the trip] and this lack of information was maintained until the end of the trip,” Bahram Qassemi said, according to the Reuters news agency, citing the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA).

“One of the reasons for the resignation of Dr. Zarif was this type of lack of coordination with the ministry of foreign affairs,” Qassemi said.

“And as it has been announced before, the resignation of the honorable minister was not a private and individual issue and the goal and intent of that was a positive effort to return the ministry of foreign affairs and the diplomatic system of the country to its main place.”

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, speaks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during their meeting in Tehran, Syria, February 25, 2019. (SANA via AP)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday rejected Zarif’s resignation saying it was “against the country’s interests,” according to the government’s official website.

Assad on Thursday invited Zarif to visit Damascus, but no date has been set for a visit.

Zarif abruptly tendered his resignation on Instagram last Monday. At the time it was reported that it was because he was not invited to attend meetings with Assad.

Assad, a major recipient of Iranian aid during his country’s nearly eight-year civil war, met with both Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Rouhani on his rare foreign visit, but not with Zarif.

Iran’s Entekhab news agency said it tried to reach Zarif after Assad’s visit 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!”

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Revolutionary Guard commanders in Tehran, Iran, September 18, 2016. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Zarif also got support from Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force within Iran’s Republican Guards, which are under the direct command of Khamenei.

The Guard’s website quoted Soleimani Wednesday as saying that Zarif “is in charge of foreign policy” and has “always been supported and approved by senior officials in the system, especially the supreme leader.”

Soulemani, who oversees Iran’s military involvement in Syria and was present at Assad’s meeting with Khamenei, commented on Zarif’s absence from the Monday meeting, saying, “Some inconsistencies in the presidential office that have been raised have led to the absence of our country’s foreign minister at this meeting.

“The indications are that there has been no intention for Mr. Zarif to be absent from this meeting, and I must emphasize that he is the main foreign policy secretary of the Islamic Republic of Iran as the Foreign Minister of Islamic Republic of Iran” Soleimani said, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

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