TEHRAN (AFP) – 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.
Zarif offered an apology for his “shortcomings” in the unexpected message on Instagram on Monday, with prominent Members of Parliament immediately calling for Rouhani not to accept the resignation.
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.
“I apologise 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”.
The resignation was confirmed by an informed source, however in a tweet, Rouhani’s chief of staff strongly denied reports it had been accepted by the president.
Zarif gave no explanation for his resignation. But it came hours after a surprise visit to Tehran by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been a major recipient of Iranian aid during his country’s nearly eight-year civil war, and Iran’s Entekhab news agency reported the two appeared to be linked.
According to the semi-official ISNA news agency, Zarif was not present at any of Assad’s meetings with Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Rouhani.
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!”
In an interview with the conservative Jomhoori Eslami daily published on yesterday, Zarif said “everything will be lost, when there is no trust in the manager of foreign policy.”
Mostafa Kavakebian, a reformist MP, was among those urging Rouhani not to accept Zarif’s resignation.
“Undoubtedly the Iranian people, government and state will not benefit from this resignation,” he said.
“A great majority of MPs demand that the president never accept this resignation,” he said in a tweet.
ISNA reported that a petition in support of Zarif had been signed by a majority of MPs.