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Iran's Zarif announces resignation

By Liu Xuan | China Daily | Updated: 2019-02-27 09:25
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (right) speaks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Teheran, Iran on Monday. XINHUA

Analysts see impact on Teheran of US withdrawal from 2015 nuclear deal

The resignation of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif surprised the international community, but may not affect Teheran's determination to stick to a landmark 2015 nuclear deal, analysts said.

Zarif unexpectedly announced his departure on Monday through one of his verified social media platforms. He apologized for his inability to continue serving and for his shortcomings during his term in office but offered no explanation for his decision.

Mahmoud Vaezi, head of the Iranian Presidential Office, said President Hassan Rouhani had not yet accepted the resignation.

In response on Tuesday, a majority of Iranian parliamentarians signed a letter to Rouhani requesting that Zarif stay on in his post, Iran's state media reported.

Zarif said on Tuesday that he hoped his resignation would remind the Foreign Ministry to reclaim its legal position in maintaining foreign relations, and urged his colleagues to stay in their positions.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Tuesday that China appreciated Zarif's positive contribution to the Sino-Iranian relationship during his term of office, and will continue to push forward the development of the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.

Lu also said China is working with all parties to safeguard the validity of the nuclear deal as it conforms to the need to safeguard the international nonproliferation regime and to maintain peace and stability of the Middle East.

The announcement came after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made an official visit to Teheran and had meetings with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and Rouhani. It was his first visit since the start of Syrian civil war in 2011.

Niu Song, a researcher from Shanghai International Studies University, said Zarif's resignation is a notable signal.

"Zarif is an important promoter and designer of the nuclear deal from the Iranian side," he said. "His resignation shows that Washington's withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear agreement and restart of sanctions may have had an impact on Iran's internal political situation."

The Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2015 by parties including Iran, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany, to restrict Iran's nuclear-related actions. While Iran, in return, will receive certain economic sanction relief.

Zarif, 59, has served as the foreign minister since August 2013, and previously was the permanent representative of Iran to the United Nations from 2002 to 2007.

Dong Manyuan, an expert on Middle East studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said Zarif's decision was due to pressure from inside Iran.

He said the resignation reflected differing voices from other parties in the country, especially on how to cope with the nuclear deal, with the hard-liners arguing that the agreement should be abolished and nuclear tests restarted.

"(US President Donald) Trump's withdrawal last year has damaged what Iran hoped to gain in signing the deal," he said.

"Under these circumstances, the hard-liners deem the one who was in charge of the negotiation of the deal should be responsible for such an outcome."

However, he also said the nuclear deal was a major and strategic diplomatic move for Iran that could not be passed by parliament without the approval of the Iranian top leadership.

Mo Jingxi in Beijing and AFP contributed to this story.

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