The ministry’s spokesman Abbas Mousavi posted a tweet on Tuesday to comment on a Saturday meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference between Zarif and a delegation of Democratic congressmen headed by Connecticut’s Senator Chris Murphy.
“Zarif has always said that he would meet with some members of the US Congress, who would ask to meet him, and detail the Islamic Republic of Iran’s vantage points and the realities of the region,” Mousavi explained.
“These measures are part of [Iran’s] general diplomacy, which includes meetings with elites and think tanks as well as interviews and briefings with press representatives,” the spokesman elaborated.
On Sunday, Zarif posted a tweet incorporating pictures of his meetings with foreign officials that took place on the sidelines of the conference, during which he engaged in “advancing the cause of peace and de-escalation in our region and beyond.”
Wrapping up three days in Munich, where I met with my counterparts from across the globe, as well as many other officials, think tanks, NGOs and media representatives on the sidelines of the @MunSecConf. Advancing the cause of peace and de-escalation in our region and beyond. pic.twitter.com/fWgZM5MceL— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) February 16, 2020
US President Donald Trump, who has been enacting a policy of “maximum pressure” against Iran, however, came out critical of the meeting, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo questioned Murphy’s motives.
Trump said Tuesday, “Is there anything that I should know? Because that sounds like to me a violation of the Logan Act,” referring to an obscure, little-used federal law that prevents “unauthorized American citizens” from negotiations with foreign governments having a dispute with the US.
“They ought to find out about that if it’s true,” Trump added.
In turn, Pomepo said, “If they met, I don’t know what they said…I hope they were reinforcing America’s foreign policy and not their own.”
US conservative organizations and media outlets cited anonymous sources as saying that Murphy and other Democrats had met “secretly” with Zarif.
Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, however, confirmed the meeting and said, “Members of Congress meet with foreign leaders all the time, even when we disagree with the President’s policy toward that nation, and even when that nation is an adversary. I met with the Iranian Foreign Minister to underscore the importance of protecting the safety of US troops in Iraq, releasing unlawful detainees, and delivering humanitarian aid in Yemen. These are all apolitical priorities.”
“It’s too bad the Administration isn’t having these same conversations. Unfortunately, President Trump’s Iran policy has been a total disaster. So I can understand that he wants to distract from his failures,” the senator added.
“His policy is just making Iran stronger and more menacing in the region, and I wish he could have the guts to see what is right in front of his eyes – blind escalation, with no diplomatic pathway, isn’t working,” the senator bemoaned.
He noted that he had met with Zarif both under Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama “for years.”
“They are our adversary…But I think it’s dangerous to not talk to your enemies,” the senator said, noting that the danger that is caused by the absence of any negotiation rises “esp amidst a cycle of escalation.”
1/ Attached is my usual account of my latest trip abroad, this one to Ukraine and Munich.
I met w the Iranian Foriegn Minister in Munich. It’s dangerous not to talk to adversaries, esp amidst a cycle of escalation.
Quick thread on what I told Zarif.https://t.co/2oYjiXfZ7J— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) February 18, 2020
Murphy’s office also said the senator had advised the US Embassy in Germany about his plans to meet with Zarif.
The senator has been critical of Trump’s withdrawal from a historic nuclear accord with Iran and others in 2018. The departure was followed by the US’s returning of the sanctions that the deal had lifted. Both the withdrawal and the snapback of the bans flew directly in the face of the deal’s multi-lateral nature and the fact that it has been ratified in the form of a United Nations Security Council resolution.
Murphy went on to detail some of the subject matters that came up during his meeting with Zarif.
He said he wanted to meet the Iranian official for several reasons, including to “gauge whether he thinks the reprisals for the Soleimani assassination are over.”
The US military assassinated Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) among others, in a drone strike that targeted their car near the Baghdad International Airport on January 3.
The IRGC shortly afterwards unleashed volleys of ballistic missiles at the US bases in Iraq. Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei later described the retaliatory strikes as “only a slap.”
Murphy also said he wanted to raise with Zarif the issue of American prisoners held in Iran. “We spent a few minutes discussing how the situation could be resolved,” the senator said.