Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov (pictured) met on Tuesday to discuss regional and international issues, including Tehran’s nuclear program and the Syrian crisis.
No details were released of the discussion, which comes amid Iran’s talks with the 5+1 Powers on a comprehensive nuclear agreement and the continuing deadly stalemate in Syria’s war.
“The meeting was a good opportunity for exchanging views on the expansion of cooperation between the two countries,” Zarif told reporters.
The Foreign Minister is also in Moscow for a gathering of Foreign Ministers on the status of the Caspian Sea, with which both Iran and Russia have borders.
Evin Prison Update: Prisons Chief Sacked
It has emerged that Gholamhosein Esmaeli, Head of Iran’s prisons, has been sacked. The decision comes after reports last week surrounding the beating of dozens of political detainees in Iran’s Evin Prison.
— Sadegh Ghorbani (@GhorbaniSadegh) April 23, 2014
Tehran Denies Involvement in Bahrain Anti-Regime Protests
Iran has dismissed allegations that it played a role in Bahrain’s ongoing uprising. The denial comes after 14 individuals were imprisoned in Bahrain, having been convicted of spying and receiving military training from Iran.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry responded to these claims on Tuesday and suggested that Iran was being used as a scapegoat by Bahrain in order to take down protestors. An official at the Ministry warned that: “Bahraini officials had better seriously address the civil demands of their people instead instead of playing a blame game and levelling unfounded allegations against others.”
UN Committee Discusses US Visa Issue
The UN Committee on Relations with the Host Country met on Tuesday but has not taken action over the ongoing dispute surrounding Washington’s refusal of a visa to Iran’s UN appointee, Hamid Aboutalebi.
Iran’s Ambassador to the UN, Gholam Hossein Dehqani, has emphasized that the US visa refusal contravenes “the principles of international law and the United Nations Charter.” Dehqani added that the US decision undermined the UN system and will have serious negative implications for multilateral diplomacy.”
His comments come in reaction to President Obama’s decision on April 18 to sign a law, barring Aboutalebi from entering the US.
Foreign Minister Zarif Uses Leading US Journal to Promote “Constructive Engagement”
Writing in the leading US journal Foreign Affairs, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has set out Iran’s approach to international affairs:
The Iranian people, with their massive turnout in last year’s presidential election and their decisive choice of assertive engagement, have provided a unique window of opportunity for the new Iranian government and for the world to chart a different and much more promising course in our bilateral and multilateral relations. The Islamic Republic of Iran is determined to vigorously honor its citizens’ choice, which will undoubtedly have a tremendous impact on world affairs.
For this endeavor to succeed, it is imperative for other states to accept the reality of Iran’s prominent role in the Middle East and beyond and to recognize and respect Iran’s legitimate national rights, interests, and security concerns. It is equally important for other states to scrupulously observe the sensitivities of the Iranian nation, particularly regarding its national dignity, independence, and achievements. Westerners, especially Americans, need to modify their understandings of Iran and the Middle East and develop a better grasp of the region’s realities, avoiding the analytic and practical mistakes of the past. Courage and leadership are required to seize this historic opportunity, which might not come again. The opportunity must not be lost.
Zarif’s statement is a general one, promoting multilaterialism and the opportunity presented by the Rouhani Government. He mentions the nuclear question, but makes only passing reference to issues such as Palestine, the “Arab Spring”, and Syria.
Political Maneuvers Over Ahmadinejad “Comeback”
Reports of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s return to front-line politics may be no more than chatter, but they are being used by all sides for advantage.
Javan Online uses the scenario to call for conservatives and principlists to rebuild their political efforts, after their failure in the 2013 Presidential vote.
The outlet claims an advisor with “ties to the Government” said the former President’s return “will be an opportunity for us, because it won’t allow the Principlists to unite in the upcoming Parliamentary elections”.
Continued Attempt to Dismiss Reported Beating of Political Prisoners
Leading figures have continued their attempts to sweep away reports of last week’s beating of dozens of political detainees in Evin Prison, injuring more than 30 — four seriously.
MP Hamid Resaei dismissed the reports, saying the incident in Ward 350 was merely “an inspection” in which contraband items such as “cell phones, SIM cards, and laptop were discovered” and alcohol was seized.
Rasaei said the Ward held “seditionists, the MEK (the “terrorist” Mujahedin-e Khalq), counter-revolutionaries, and Baha’is, so naturally they accept one another and defend each other”.
The head of Iran’s prisons has also claimed, despite the eyewitness accounts of families, that no beatings occurred.
However, other MPs are not as sanguine — a dozen have signed a letter calling for an investigation.
VP Repeats “Support Payments for Subsidy Cuts Are Only for Poor”
Vice President Mohammad Shariatmadari has emphasized the Government’s determination to remove support payments for subsidy cuts from many Iranians, saying they are only for the needy.
The Government is trying to reform the subsidy cuts program of its predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which gives 45,000 Rials (about $18) per month to each Iranian to cover the higher prices from the cuts. President Rouhani and his Ministers say the program has led to costs outpacing Government revenues by billions of dollars.
Registration for support payments under the revised program ended on Sunday. The Government website asked Iranians to declare monthly income below 6 million Rials (about $235), between 6 million and 10 million Rials ($390), between 10 million and 20 million Rials ($780), between 20 million and 25 million Rials ($980), or above 25 million Rials.
Shariatmadari indicated that many people are trying to evade the changes with only a small percentage of people filing monthly income above 25 million rials: “Some had thought if they do not register they will be recognized as rich and ‘some problems’ will be created for them.”
The Minister said those who have registered will be paid in the current month of Ordibehesht (April 21-May 21).
He also said that the Government will announce increase in prices of gasoline, diesel, and natural gas by Friday.