0653 GMT July 31, 2021
President-elect Ebrahim Raeisi said on Monday Iran’s foreign policy priority would be improving ties with neighbors, in his first news conference since his election last Friday.
Raeisi, a 61-year-old conservative cleric who heads Iran’s Judiciary, will replace moderate President Hassan Rouhani in August as Iran seeks to revive a 2015 tattered nuclear deal with world powers.
Raeisi said Iranian foreign policy would not be limited to the nuclear deal. “Iran wants interaction with the world… My government’s priority will be improving ties with our neighbors in the region,” he said at his first news conference in Tehran, televised by national media, since winning the election, Reuters reported.
Raeisi said his government would be open to restoring ties with Iran's regional foe Saudi Arabia.
“There are no obstacles from Iran’s side to reestablishing embassies... there are no obstacles to ties with Saudi Arabia,” he said, as discussions are under way to try and bring closer the two Middle East powers that have held no diplomatic ties since 2016.
Ties between the two countries were cut that year after Iranian protesters stormed Saudi diplomatic missions following the kingdom’s execution of a revered Shia cleric.
They are reported to have been engaged in talks hosted by Baghdad since April to improve relations.
He said Saudi Arabia “and its allies should immediately stop their interference in Yemen”. A Saudi-led coalition launched an air campaign against Yemen in 2015 after Houthi forces took the capital Sana’a. The conflict has been largely stalemated for several years.
US return to JCPOA
Raeisi further said he would not allow negotiations in Vienna over the nuclear deal for the sake of negotiations.
“Any negotiations that guarantee national interests will certainly be supported, but... we will not allow negotiations to be for negotiations’ sake,” he said.
The 2015 deal, known as the JCPOA, saw Iran accept limits on its nuclear capabilities in return for an easing of sanctions, but former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew three years later and ramped up sanctions, prompting the Islamic Republic to pull back from most of its nuclear commitments, AFP reported.
Trump’s successor Joe Biden has signaled his readiness to return to the deal while state parties – also including China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany – have lately been negotiating its revival in the Austrian capital.
Raeisi further said the United States had violated the deal and the European Union had failed to fulfil its commitments.
“I tell the United States to return to its commitment to the deal… All sanctions imposed on Iran must be lifted and verified by Tehran,” he said.
Raeisi also said he has no intention of meeting Biden.
“No,” was his flat response to a question from an American media outlet on whether he would meet his future counterpart in the event the talks lead to the US lifting sanctions on Iran, and to try and “fix” the issues between the two arch enemies.
Raeisi said Iran’s ballistic missile program was non-negotiable, despite demands by the West and Persian Gulf Arab countries that it be included in the ongoing talks to revive the nuclear agreement.
“Regional and missile issues are not negotiable. They [United States] did not comply with the previous agreement; how do they want to enter into new discussions?” he said.
In his remarks on Monday, Raeisi, who is under US sanctions, said that he should be rewarded for defending Iranians’ rights and security.
He said that, as a jurist, he had “always defended human rights”, adding that US sanctions against him for alleged human rights abuses had been imposed on him for doing his job as a judge.
Message of national unity
In his opening remarks, Raeisi said the Iranian nation voiced their message to the world through the presidential poll, noting that “one message was national unity and coherence”.
“The message of the Iranian nation was the necessity of change in the economic situation,” he said, according to Press TV.
The message of the Iranian nation, he continued, was the need to fight corruption, poverty and discrimination and, in one word, the realization of justice in all aspects of the people’s lives.
“This vast and meaningful presence of the people occurred in spite of the coronavirus situation and hostilities and the psychological warfare of Iran’s enemies,” he said.