TEHRAN -- President-elect Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday Iran’s foreign policy priority would be improving ties with Persian Gulf Arab neighbors, while calling on Saudi Arabia to halt its intervention in Yemen immediately.
Raisi will take over from Hassan Rouhani in August as Iran seeks to be rid of inhuman U.S. sanctions that have harmed its economy.
Raisi said Iranian foreign policy would not be limited to the nuclear deal. “Iran wants interaction with the world…My government’s priority will be improving ties with our neighbors in the region,” he told his first news conference in Tehran since winning Friday’s election.
But he called on Saudi Arabia “and its allies should immediately stop their interference in Yemen.” His administration, he said, would be open to restoring ties with the kingdom.
“There are no obstacles from Iran’s side to re-establishing embassies... there are no obstacles to ties with Saudi Arabia,” he said, as discussions are reported under way to try and bring closer the two Middle East powers that have held no diplomatic ties since 2016.
Ties between the two countries were cut that year after Iranian protestors held angry protests outside Saudi diplomatic missions following the kingdom’s execution of a revered Shia cleric.
“The Islamic Republic stresses that the war against Yemen must come to a rapid halt and Yemen must be run by Yemenis,” Raisi said.
“It is only for the Yemeni people to decide how their country should be managed,” he said. “We emphasize that the war against Yemen and Saudis’ attacks on the oppressed people of Yemen must stop as soon as possible.”
Raisi further said the United States has violated the 2015 nuclear deal and the European Union has failed to fulfill its commitments.
“I emphatically urge the United States to return to the JCPOA and comply with its commitment. The Iranian people expect you to abide by your obligations,” he said.
“European countries and the United States must look and see what they have done to the JCPOA. The United States violated the JCPOA while European countries failed to comply with their obligations,” he added, using the acronym for the nuclear deal.
“We tell the United States that you have to remove all sanctions and must return to the deal and fulfill your obligations. Europeans must not be influenced by the U.S. pressure and must act upon their commitments. This is what the Iranian nation wants from you.”
Asked if he would meet U.S. President Joe Biden if those sanctions were lifted, Raisi simply answered “No.”
Negotiations have been ongoing in Vienna since April to work out how the United States would
return to compliance with the nuclear pact, which Washington abandoned in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump and then reimposed sanctions on Iran.
Raisi said he will not allow nuclear negotiations for the sake of negotiations.
“Any negotiations that guarantee national interests will certainly be supported, but... we will not allow negotiations to be for negotiation’s sake,” he said.
The president-elect said the United States’ “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran has failed to bring the Iranian nation to their knees.
Raeisi emphasized that the U.S. must remove the sanctions in a verifiable way in order for Tehran to reverse the nuclear steps it took in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
He said the current negotiating team involved in the ongoing talks in Vienna will continue to hold the negotiations as the transition to the new administration takes place.
The Iranian people, he said, have shown resistance and perseverance in the face of the maximum pressure campaign, which included tough economic sanctions targeting the people’s livelihood.
Raisi said any negotiation that secures Iran’s national interests will be supported by his administration, but “we will not tie the economic situation and people’s livelihood to these negotiations and we will not allow talks for the sake of talks.”
The president-elect also said Iran’s ballistic missile program is non-negotiable, despite demands by the West that it be included in the ongoing talks to revive the nuclear agreement.
“Regional and missile issues are not negotiable. They (United States) did not comply with the previous agreement, how do they want to enter into new discussions?” he said.
Raisi said that, as a jurist, he had “always defended human rights,” adding that U.S. sanctions against him for alleged human rights abuses had been imposed on him for doing his job as a judge.
He touched on the Friday elections, saying the Iranian people voiced their message to the world through the polls, with one message being national unity and coherence.”
“The message of the Iranian nation was the necessity of a change in the economic situation,” he said.
The message of the Iranian nation, he continued, was the need to fight corruption, poverty and discrimination, and in one word the realization of justice in all aspects of the people’s lives.
“This vast and meaningful presence of the people occurred in spite of the coronavirus situation and hostilities and the psychological warfare of Iran’s enemies,” he said.
Raisi said the message of the Iranian nation is also insistence on the values of the glorious Islamic Revolution and steadfastness on the path of the late founder of the Revolution, Imam Khomeini, and the martyrs, especially General Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in January 2020 by the United States.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Raeisi pledged to bring back the lost public trust in the Iranian administration, saying he hopes people will feel that his administration is the administration of bringing hope and building trust.
The president-elect promised that his administration will not be limited to a specific political party or group, pledging that he will be open to any governmental manager who is a patriot and wants to serve the people and the Islamic Revolution.
“Anyone whose heart beats for the people and the Revolution will be our partner everywhere in the country,” he added.