Zarif Laments Mixed Signals From US

Zarif Laments Mixed Signals From US  Zarif Laments Mixed Signals From US

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said it remains to be seen if Iran-US relations would ease in the wake of the implementation of the nuclear deal with major powers as early as next month.

Zarif said Iran was disturbed by recent proposed changes to the US Visa Waiver Program that could require European travelers who had visited Iran to apply for a visa to travel to the United States and he had been discussing the matter with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Zarif made the statements in an interview with Al-Monitor at Iran’s ambassadorial residence in New York on Friday following international peace talks on Syria.

“We will have to wait and see,” he said when asked whether Iran-US ties would ease after the United States lifts sanctions as early as January.

“Unfortunately, there are mixed signals coming from Washington, mostly negative signals, including the Visa Waiver Program restrictions” included in a Congressional omnibus spending bill, Zarif said.

“Now we wait for the decision by the administration on how it wants to bring itself into compliance with its obligations under JCPOA,” he said.

“I have had discussions with Secretary Kerry and others on this for the past several days since it’s become known that this was the intention. And I wait for them to take action.”

Zarif said Iran, which is engaged in fighting the self-styled Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria, has nothing to do with recent IS-linked terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, calling the proposed changes to the US Visa Waiver Program targeting travelers to Iran “absurd”.

“Now it is clear that this new legislation is simply absurd because no Iranian or anybody who visited Iran had anything to do with the tragedies that have taken place in Paris or in San Bernardino or anywhere else,” Zarif said. “But they’re being the targets. I think it discredits those who pass these legislations, those who adopt them and those who implement them more than anything else. And it sends a very bad signal to the Iranians that the US is bent on hostile policy towards Iran, no matter what.”

  Engagement With Riyadh  

Zarif said he appreciated that the international Syria diplomatic process had brought Iran and Saudi Arabia into direct discussions again, which Iran has sought but Riyadh had refused until October.

But he expressed misgivings about the intentions of some members of the international body about whether they really supported a diplomatic resolution to the Syria conflict.

He confirmed that Iran has had sideline bilateral conversations with Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, but he said the interactions were brief.

“There have been some short conversations, very welcomed though,” Zarif said. “And I’ve had a couple of exchanges with my Saudi counterpart [Adel al-Jubeir]. Iran’s ambassador has had a couple of exchanges in the yard. We hope that is a good beginning. But that’s not even near where we should be.”

“We have always been ready to engage with our neighbors and we believe that our neighbors are our priority,” Zarif said. “And once our Saudi friends are ready to engage in serious dialogue, they will find Iran to be … ready.”