Iran FM Zarif says meeting with US Senator Murphy ‘spooked’ Trump administration

ranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at a press conference. (File photo: AFP)

Iran’s foreign minister said Wednesday that he believes his recent meeting with a US senator had spooked the Trump administration because it was an opportunity to talk directly to “the American nation.”

Mohammad Javad Zarif met last week with Senator Chris Murphy on the sidelines of an international security conference in Germany. The Connecticut Democrat defended the meeting on Tuesday after his actions were questioned in conservative media, and as President Donald Trump suggested they may have violated US law, specifically the Logan Act that bars private citizens from conducting official diplomacy.

“Trump and Pompeo are afraid of a senator hearing facts from the Iranian foreign minister,” Zarif said, speaking to reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting. He said this wasn’t his first face-to-face chat with an American lawmaker in the last 20 years. It was not immediately clear which senators he’d met with.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped anyone who meets with Zarif would be reflecting the US position with Iran.

“This guy [Zarif] is designated by the United States of America,” Pompeo said at a press conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “He’s the foreign minister for a country that shot down a commercial airliner and has yet to turn over the black boxes. This is the foreign minister of a country that killed an American on December 27. And it’s the foreign minister of a country who is the largest world sponsor of terror and the world’s largest sponsor of anti-Semitism.”

Pompeo referred to the US treasury decision in July 2019 to designate Zarif for acting for the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei. In April 2019, US President Donald Trump designated Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and its Quds Force, as a foreign terrorist organization.

In January, Iran's aviation authority said it would not hand over flight recorders from the Ukrainian passenger plane that killed all 176 people on board. At the tailend of December, an American civilian contractor was killed and several were wounded in an Iranian rocket attack on an Iraqi military base where the contractors were housed.

“If they met, I don’t know what they said. I hope they were reinforcing America’s foreign policy and not their own," Pompeo said.

Murphy said meeting Zarif was important because it is “dangerous not to talk to one’s enemies,” adding: “I have no delusions about Iran – they are our adversary.”

On Tuesday, Murphy's office confirmed to Al Arabiya English that he had met with Zarif at the Munich conference.

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