United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Zarif Pens Diary About U.S. Visit

            In an all-time first for Iranian diplomacy, new Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif has been chronicling his visit to New York on his Facebook page for Iranians back home. The following translations by USIP's Maral Noori are Zarif's accounts of meetings at the United Nations. Excerpts will be added to this account throughout his visit.

September 19
 
Hello Friends,
 
      Around noon yesterday, after a 15-hour flight and a two-hour stopover, I landed in New York and went directly to the United Nations. For those friends who have not travelled to this part of the world, New York is eight-and-one-half hours behind Iran. A good friend and colleague of mine, Mohammad Khazaee, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, put on an honorable program that was attended by more than 100 U.N. ambassadors and secretariat officials. It was in the same hall where I held my farewell ceremony six years ago--and this time more of the permanent representatives of Middle East, European, Asian, African, and Latin American countries attended.
 
 
            Honestly, the ambassadors showed widespread interest in improved relations with Iran, which I hope will be managed with the best diplomacy. Of course, we must not expect too much. Changes in the international situation require tact, patience and consensus. In this world, the hard-liners are not sitting with nothing to do, and every day they are preparing new issues to disrupt the atmosphere created by Iran’s recent election, which -- to the relief of you nice people – is a message about interacting with the world with an emphasis on Iran’s self-esteem and national interest.
 
            I was given a very kind welcome by Ambassador Jan Eliasson, the deputy secretary general of the United Nations, whom I met during the negotiations to end the Iran-Iraq war. Since then, over the past 25 years, I have worked positively with him on various topics, and we spoke of our friendship and respect about our record of collaboration… After this program, we went to the Iranian ambassador’s residence, which had been the residence of my family for five years. We did some coordination regarding my trip and the trip next week of Dr. Rouhani, which was really done while I was between sleep and awake, actually more asleep because it was almost 2 a.m. Tehran time.  The ambassador allowed me to rest for a few hours and prepare for dinner with some of the ambassadors from neighboring countries -- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, the United Emirates, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Afghanistan--to be held in the ambassador’s home. I finally got to sleep around 10:30 p.m. New York time – 7 a.m. Tehran time – but sleep was short because of the time difference and insomnia hit me at 2 a.m. Thanks to God, that insomnia provides me a good time to speak to you.
 
      On Thursday, in addition to a meeting with the editorial board of a popular American newspaper, I will meet with the secretary general and his deputy. On Monday, the General Assembly will begin and, based on the programs given me, I have to attend 10 to 12 ministerial meetings. Monday will be the heaviest meeting day with 14 meetings:  With [European Union foreign policy chief Catherine] Ashton (left) and the foreign ministers of Greece, the Netherlands, Australia, Italy, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Japan, Turkey, Oman, Slovakia, Croatia, Georgia and Bulgaria. However, after the arrival of the president at sunset Monday, I will spend most of the time accompanying him to most of his meetings.
 
            Thanks for your prayers and, with the help of God, the saints and the Blessed, hopefully we can achieve things worthy of the good people of Iran in the plenary and meetings that will make us worthy of your generosity and kindness. May Allah be with you and watch over you.
 
5:30 am (2 p.m. in the afternoon on dear Iran’s time)
In New York on Thursday September 19, 2013
 
September 21
 
Hello Friends,
 
            On Thursday and Friday I met with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his deputy Jan Eliasson, the Indonesian foreign minister, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and had separate two-hour briefing sessions with editors and staff of Time magazine and The New York Times. I also had a three-hour meeting with a group of very sweet and proud Iranian activists and research institutions in America, especially dear second- and third-generation Iranian youth, and visited with colleagues in former delegations. The nights have passed slowly due to insomnia from the time difference.
 
       Both nights we had working dinners at the official U.N. residence. During the first night we met with a group of influential ambassadors to the United Nations from Europe, Asia and Latin America, and the second night with a group of prominent American scholars that, over the past 10 years, have played a prominent role in the enlightenment and confrontation in the war against the Taliban and radicals in America.
 
 
            Today and tomorrow is the weekend here, and from morning until night I will meet with prominent intellectuals and former political and civil society activists in America and Europe. In about an hour, I will have a working meeting Mr. Javier Solana, the former European Union foreign policy chief before Catherine Ashton. Then on Sunday evening, my friend of 30 years, Kofi Anan will be present, and then several meetings some foreign ministers and the chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations.  
 
           The important themes in all these visits: renouncing of nuclear arms and weapons of mass destruction; the need to shape the political will in the West to resolve the nuclear issue; the negative effects of sanctions on the livelihoods of people at the same time strengthen their will to resist imposition or violation rights; ways to end the Syrian crisis through negotiations and going to the polls; the dangerous situation in the region; containing the threat of extremism and sectarianism in the region and the globe; condemnation of chemical weapons; necessary pressure on Israel on nuclear and chemical weapons of mass destruction and a future [nuclear] free-zone in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
 
            Overall they were good conversations, and I am hopeful I will have tangible results for the nation and people. Goodbye until next the virtual meeting.
 
New York - Saturday 6:30 a.m.
 
September 23
 
Hello friends,
 
            It is 6 a.m in the morning New York-time on Monday. It is about 1:30 p.m. in the afternoon on dear Iran’s time. Clocks here are set back later than in Iran, and for two or three weeks the time difference between New York and Iran is seven-and-one-half hours instead of the usual eight-and-one-half hours.
            I present to you a report from meetings on Saturday and Sunday that were very good and provided a solid foundation for building on important meetings later this week, Allah willing.
            Today’s meetings will begin in nearly two hours. As I said stated to you before, the schedule of appointments is so tight that I cannot even go to the airport to welcome the honorable president of the republic [Hassan Rouhani]…
            Your kind comments and private messages are humbling me. Please allow me to thank each of you one by one. More importantly, I submit a modest prayer to thank you for the honorable president of the republic and other public servants. 
            But in your comments and some stories in the media, I have seen a common thread saying that I may need to submit points to all of you.
           The eleventh government is the government of measure and hope, and as its servant, I am very happy that people are hopeful for this government’s policies. But the field of foreign policy includes sobriety, patience, tact and measured actions that are deliberate and purposeful. You cannot expect accumulated problems to be resolved with one or a couple meetings.
            To reach a route toward successful and sustainable solutions, both parties must be ready for building interaction on an equitable basis, mutual respect and common interests. I am, however, sure that with help of the almighty Allah and His blessings, and because your servants support the wise supreme leader and your honorable people, international actors will be forced to deal effectively with your representatives. With patience, prudence and foresight, we will safeguard the rights, development, progress, and prosperity of you noble people.
            The various meetings with the honorable president of the republic and me are the first steps on this steep path. I, however, have confidence that this difficult and time-consuming road will lead to success with your prayers, patience and support.
However, we must secure the Sharif with patience and prudence and foresight carefully and diligently to safeguard the rights, development, progress and prosperity of you noble people.
 
Hello friends,
 
            The meeting with Lady Catherine Ashton [E.U. foreign policy chief] was positive. I explained a conceptual framework and political will to reach a solution for the rights of the Iranian people and the lifting of sanctions. From her interview after the meeting, it is clear she had a positive impression. A meeting of the P5+1 [the United States, China, Britain, France, Germany and Russia] and Iran is planned for Thursday at the ministerial-level and the next meeting is scheduled to be held in mid-October.
 
September 26
Hello Friends,
 
            I am very sorry that two to three days have passed and I have not provided you a report of what is going on. It is 6 a.m. on Thursday. I now want to present a brief report, and maybe this upcoming Saturday or Sunday I will have time to write with more detail.
            The Meetings: This year everyone wants to have a meeting with Iran. The meetings of Doctor Rouhani and me, your servant, have continued to be pressed for time.  We have not been able to coordinate many of the meeting requests due to lack of time. Sometimes, even despite my insistence and the dear president’s willingness to participate in all meetings, we must have meetings at the same time and I am not involved in his plans.  We have visited most of the important and effective countries and the visits will continue today and tomorrow.
            The Speech: The speech of the dear president of the republic [to the United Nations] has been welcomed by the political and media. Only the Israeli delegation walked out this year, no one else quit the meeting. During all formal and informal meetings and discussions, all of the Western countries and developing countries described the president’s speech as a turning point. During this year’s speech, overwhelming support of the Palestinian people was expressed (about 95% of speakers will lecture on topics such as Syria and Palestine) and [the president] even described how to deal with the apartheid in Palestine. We did not allow Israel to exploit some of our words our innocent views to blackmail other countries. Israel was, once again, after 8 years, was isolated during the General Assembly… Most heads of the delegations arrived at the meeting hall just before the speech and left right after. As I said in parliament, Iran’s capabilities in synergistic ideals and national interests are not in conflict or contention. Opinions expressed in terms of moderation, the speech of Dr. Rouhani was deliberate and purposeful. For this reason, the speech maintained the principle positions of the country, it illustrated the confidence of the people and authorities, and provided a different world view that was not provocative.
            Today, the president will address the General Assembly on disarmament. The president, as chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement, will offer a common position, the words of which have been discussed in several Non-Aligned Movement sessions. In other words, more than one hundred other representatives participated in the writing of this speech.
            P5+1 [Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States]: Today the P5+1 and Iran negotiations will be held at the foreign minister level for the first time in eight years. This is a start for showing the political will to move towards resolving the issue at the General Assembly. However, the ministers of P5+1 countries like me, your servant, have busy schedules. This session is not expected to last long nor is a solution likely to be reached at this session. The next meeting is planned for the beginning of Mehr (late October) at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva. However, thanks to Allah and the prayers of you who are blessed, I am hopeful for a good start to reaching a comprehensive solution and a result that hopefully [safeguards] the pride of country and people’s welfare.
            Again, I’m sorry that after a few days delay, I have to discharge from your service. Last night until 11 p.m., we met with key members of American think tanks in the presence of the president. Some of the elite Americans had very positive views. Right now the time is 20 minutes to 7 and at 7:15 p.m. I have to visit with one of the leading Iranians, a president of one of the important universities in America. The meetings with the ministers will begin at 8 p.m. May Allah watch over all of you, and my eyes are waiting for your blessed prayers.
 
Photo credits: Javad Zarif via Facebook
 

 

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