Speaking at a press conference in Iraq, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, “Tehran has offered to sign a non-aggression pact with its neighbors in the Gulf.” Zarif did not say which countries specifically but did say he wishes to “build balanced relations” with all Gulf states.
Zarif also said Tehran was ready to defend against any aggression, “We will defend against any war efforts against Iran, whether it be an economic war or a military one, and we will face these efforts with strength.” Tensions between Iran, the US and its Gulf allies have increased recently after the Saudis accused Tehran of being behind an attack on oil tankers in the region, which Tehran has denied.
Mohammed al-Hakim, Iraq’s Foreign Minister also spoke at the press conference, making it clear that Iraq stands with Iran and is willing to act as an intermediary between Iran and the United States. Baghdad does not believe an “economic blockade” is fruitful, he added in a reference to U.S. sanctions. “We are saying very clearly and honestly that we oppose the unilateral actions taken by the United States. We stand with the Islamic Republic of Iran in its position,” Hakim said.
This is not the first time Iran has called for peace talks with its Gulf neighbors, “Iran is ready to work with regional states to preserve security in the Middle East,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech back in February, “We want to establish brotherly ties with all countries of the region … Iran has never started any aggression in the region.”
It is worth noting that both Reuters and Al Jazeera reported on the press conference, headlining their stories as “Iran will defend itself against any aggression,” when the point of the press conference was clearly an attempt to open up dialogue with countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab-Emirates.
Dave DeCamp is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn NY, focusing on US Foreign policy and wars. He is on Twitter at @decampdave.