LONDON (Reuters) – A senior Revolutionary Guards commander said on Wednesday Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was the main person in charge of Iranian foreign policy and he was supported by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Zarif tendered his resignation two days ago but President Hassan Rouhani has not accepted it yet.
“Mr Zarif is in charge of the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic, and has always been supported by the top officials, especially the supreme leader,” Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force — the extraterritorial branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.
Although Zarif gave no specific reasons for his surprise resignation, Iranian media reports indicated he resigned over not being invited to a meeting between Rouhani and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Tehran on Monday.
Assad made his first public visit to Iran since the start of Syria’s war in 2011, and also met Khamenei.
Soleimani, who was present at both meetings, said Zarif’s absence was the result of a bureaucratic mistake.
“Signs show there has been no intention to exclude Mr Zarif from this meeting and I should emphasise that as the foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, he is the main person in charge of the country’s foreign policy,” Soleimani said.
Zarif – a U.S.-educated veteran diplomat – helped craft a pact with world powers in 2015 that curbed Iran’s nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.
He has been under pressure from Iranian hardliners since 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.
(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Editing by Paul Tait)