Iran has backtracked on its previous denial of the extermination of Jews during World War II as part of its efforts to normalize ties with the West since the coming of moderate President Hassan Rouhani to power last year.
Addressing an international security conference in Munich on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the killing of Jews by the Nazi regime was “tragically cruel and should not happen again.”
“We have nothing against the Jews. We do not feel threatened by anyone,” Zarif added. But he noted that “the rights of the Palestinians have been violated by Israel for 60 years.”
In an interview with ABC's Georgre Stephanopoulos last year September, Zarif condemned the Holocaust as a “heinous crime” and “genocide.”
Asked about the phrase “the myth of the massacre of Jews” which appeared in a translation of 2006 speech by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Zarif told Stephanopoulos: “The Holocaust is not a myth. Nobody’s talking about a myth.”
Meanwhile, Zarif said during a visit to Berlin on Monday that Iran will never launch a military operation against anyone.
“We will not start a military operation against anyone - I say: against anyone,” Zarif told the German Council on Foreign Relations, a day after talks in Munich with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other officials from the six powers who are negotiating with Iran about its nuclear program.
He also said that he is confident that his country will be able to forge a final deal on its nuclear program with world powers by July 20.
Zarif said an agreement can be reached within the six-month deadline set when Iran agreed to halt its most sensitive uranium enrichment activities in return for an easing of Western sanctions.
The statements come as former U.S. ambassador Frederic Hof has revealed that Iranian officials, in private meetings, told him that Iran is not in conflict with the United States or Israel but rather believe Saudi Arabia to be the main threat considering its perceived tampering in Syria, Kuwait’s daily al-Rai reported.
The former special advisor for transition in Syria at the U.S. Department of State spoke at a congressional panel discussion this week and shed light on the undisclosed meetings that are frequently held between U.S. and Iranian officials.
According to Hof, one Iranian official told him that “neither the U.S. nor Israel intervened in Syria,” adding that the real problem was Saudi Arabia and to a lesser extent, Turkey.
Hof said that Iran believes Saudi Arabia to be Iran’s real enemy inside and outside Syria, and not Israel.
“Iran is concerned about the consequences of the sectarian and civil war in Syria, but Saudi Arabia will benefit from sectarianism in the region,” Iranian officials reportedly told Hof.