TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif left Tehran to attend the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Zarif left the capital early on Friday. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is also scheduled to go to New York on Monday.
The top diplomat’s departure comes after a long visa delay for the Iranian delegation had prompted wide speculation regarding possible cancellation of the foreign minister and the president’s trip.
The US imposed sanctions on the Iranian foreign minister late July, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claiming that the top Iranian diplomat is a “key enabler” of Iran’s policies throughout the region and the world.
The move was seen as part of Washington’s campaign of “maximum pressure” against Tehran in a bid to isolate and weaken the country after Trump withdrew from the Iran 2015 nuclear deal in May last year, and re-imposed sanctions lifted under the landmark agreement.
Asked about whether Iranian officials would be banned from taking part in the UN General assembly on Wednesday, Pompeo had suggested that Washington may consider the measure.
“I would say this: if you’re connected to a foreign terrorist organization, it seems to me it would be a reasonable thing to think about whether they ought to be prevented to attend a meeting which is about peace,” he said.
Zarif, however, slammed his “novice counterpart’s” remarks on Thursday, reminding him that Washington was obligated to issue the visas.
“@SecPompeo tries to dodge US obligation to issue visas for UN delegates by resorting to self-arrogated designations. A history lesson, perhaps, for my novice counterpart: Nelson Mandela was on U.S. Terrorist Watch List until 2008; 15 years after receiving Nobel Peace Prize,” Zarif said on his Twitter account.
Despite Pompeo’s earlier remarks, US President Donald Trump said he would “let them come” when asked about the matter on Thursday, raising speculation that the president was unaware of the visa issue.
“I’ve always felt the United Nations is very important. I think it’s got tremendous potential. I don’t think it’s ever lived up to the potential it has, but I would certainly not want to keep people out if they want to come.”
Zarif’s departure on Friday also came shortly after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the international body had intervened to solve the matter.
“We have been in contact with the host-state to solve all outstanding visa problems in relation to delegations and I hope that this will allow to solve the problem,” he said.
Trump has repeatedly signaled his apparent willingness to meet with Iranian officials in a bid to “renegotiate” the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with some analysts floating the idea that a meeting could take in the upcoming UN General Assembly.
Iranian officials have, however, dismissed any prospect of talks as long as the US doesn’t adhere to the previously multilaterally-agreed nuclear deal.
On Tuesday, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said that Iran will not engage in negotiations with the US “at any level,” and that Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran had failed to achieve its goals.