Abbas Araghchi, a senior Iranian negotiator at the nuclear talks with the world major powers known as P5+1 announced that the talks have entered the final drafting phase, members of Iran’s hardline Steadfast Front belonging to the Principlists group have through a 100-signature letter called for the return of former negotiator Saeed Jalili to the talks. This is despite assurances by close aides of Iran’s supreme leader ayatollah Khamenei that the “talks are progressing with his full knowledge.” This request brought forth a response from Khamenei’s most senior foreign policy advisor Ali Akbar Velayati who unequivocally defended the current negotiations team and said, “As long as the negotiating team continues to work within the framework defined by the supreme leader it should not be undermined.” In an earlier comment on Jalili, Velayati had said that the previous negotiator had engaged in rhetoric and sloganeering rather than diplomatic negotiations.
Abbas Araghchi (L) attended a press conference on May 14 in Vienna
This Monday, members from the hardline Principlist block known as the Steadfast Front had formally asked the presidium of Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, to summon foreign minister Javad Zarif and former negotiator Saeed Jalili to the Majlis for greater coordination. Fararu website, a moderate outlet, called the request “strange.”
Fararu wrote that Alireza Manadi, a member of the presiding board of the Majlis said that a hundred representatives had signed a letter to Ali Larijani, the head of parliament, requesting that Jalili and Zarif “debate” the Geneva agreement at the Majlis. “The request from the parliamentarians has to be first discussed at the presiding board level and nothing has been decided at this point,” he said.
Hassan Ghashghavi, deputy foreign minister for consular affairs rejected the request of the parliamentarians and said the Majlis had no provisions to hold debates.
Tadbir website close to Hassan Rouhani’s administration also wrote, “It is strange that issues such as the request for a debate by two negotiating teams is called upon.” It called the request “suspicious” because the letter had called for a closed door session of the Majlis because whatever transpired in the hearings could be “misused” by political groups.
For now it appears that this request by hardline Principlists, some of whose leaders have been critical of the November 2013 interim agreement between Iran and the P5+1 major powers on Iran’s nuclear program, has been pushed out of the limelight. Two former negotiating team members, Ali Bagheri and Hamid Asghari did show up at the Majlis on Monday but were given the cold shoulder by representatives. Observers have said that the Steadfast Front’s second attempt to bring back Jalili into the talks and limelight failed.
Velayati, who defended the current team and its agenda and work, also said, “I did not agree with the former style of negotiations. The other side must be heard while we must say what we think is right. The style that the current negotiating team follows indicates its experience in talks. Negotiations must involve sharp and experienced individuals. What the other side may be doing is not a hundred percent predictable, because some of them, like the US secretary of state, have an unsatisfactory approach.”
In recent weeks, former IRGC commander and current secretary of the State Expediency Council which oversees the work of the supreme leader, along with Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, mayor of Tehran and a presidential candidate, have both said that the nuclear talks are progressing with guidance from ayatollah Khamenei. Reza said, “We are not concerned about the rights of the Iranian nation at the talks because the talks are being pursued under the supervision of the supreme leader.”
The nuclear talks are currently being held in Vienna, Austria as an effort to reach a final agreement. Because the talks are held under the supervision of ayatollah Khamenei, some have said that a final agreement would bring greater esteem to the supreme leader.
Hamid Rasai, a leading member of the hardline Steadfast Front had at one time characterized the nuclear agreement as a “Poisoned Chalice,” a reference that ayatollah Khomeini made in showing his indignation in accepting the UN ceasefire between Iran and Iran after its 8-year long war in 1989, implying that Khamenei may also have to drink a poisoned chalice when he accepts the final nuclear agreement with the West.
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