Iranian lawmakers have asked the Foreign Minister to explain himself, after he took a somewhat soft stance on Israel in an interview, when he referred to the Holocaust as a “horrifying tragedy” and spoke of Israel’s possible recognition.
The remarks, which have infuriated members of the Iranian parliament, were made by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in an interview to the German TV channel, Phoenix. Zarif answered the host’s questions in English and the original version of the interview appeared on YouTube on Tuesday.
The Foreign Minister was asked if Iran would recognize Israel in the event of Tel-Aviv reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
“If the Palestinians are happy with the solution, than nobody outside Palestine could prevent that from taking place,” was Zarif’s response. "We have to put on the table a solution that will be acceptable by the Palestinians, but until now we have not seen such a proposal," he added.
Zarif described the Holocaust as “a horrifying tragedy.” “And it should never occur again,” he said.
Following the interview, the foreign minister immediately came under fire from the country’s MPs, who believe his comments contradict Iran’s official position.
“There are some points revolving around Mr. Zarif’s discourse when he said that the issue of the Zionist regime and recognition or non-recognition of the regime depends on the Palestinian nation. However, such a position runs counter to the principles of the Islamic Republic,” member of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Ebrahim Aqa Mohammadi, said at a parliament session on Tuesday, the Fars News Agency reports.
“Zarif’s remark are inconsistent with the principles upheld by the system, since Imam [Ali] Khomeini believed that the Zionist regime was a [malignant] tumor,” and that it was a “bastard” regime, representative Ghasem Jafari told Iran’s Mehr News, as cited by The Jerusalem Post.
Zarif responded to the criticism by claiming he was misinterpreted. His reaction was made public by Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi.
“In a phone conversation that I had with Mr Zarif, he completely rejected the remarks attributed to him and declared that the Islamic Republic’s stance about the (Zionist) regime is what has been repeatedly announced by the country’s diplomacy apparatus and this stance has not changed,” Qashqavi told the Fars News Agency.
Members of the Iranian parliament have, however, called for Zarif to appear for questioning concerning his comments made in his interview to the German channel.
Tehran cut off all diplomatic ties with Israel following the 1979 Iranian revolution. Since then it has not recognized Israel, referring to it as the "Zionist regime."
Soft remarks on the Holocaust have been made by the Iranian top official before.
In September, Zarif wrote on Twitter that Iran had never officially denied the occurrence of the Holocaust.
President Rouhani said in a CNN interview that the Nazis committed a "reprehensible" crime against the Jewish people. Iran though later claimed CNN misrepresented Rouhani's words.