Jewish community leaders have said the presence of Iran’s Foreign Minister in London this week is “an insult to British values”
Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was instrumental in negotiating the nuclear deal with six world powers last year, is speaking at Chatham House on Thursday in a talk titled: “Overcoming Regional Challenges in the Middle East: An Iranian Perspective.”
Ahead of his visit, the community reacted with outrage and irony to the idea of Zarif lecturing the Royal Institute of International Affairs on security in the Middle East, where Iran is widely assumed to sponsor unrest in several countries.
“To give [Zarif] a platform to speak at a prestigious London venue is nothing less than an insult to British values,” said Board of Deputies’ President Jonathan Arkush.
“This is a man who has publicly supported Hezbollah, an Iranian-funded organisation believed to have perpetrated acts of terror around the world, including the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural centre in Argentina, killing 85, and the bombing of a tourist bus in Bulgaria in 2012, killing six.”
He added: “Zarif represents a regime which has been complicit in massive violations of human rights beyond its borders, including in Syria, where it supports the Houthis, whose flag proclaims ‘Death to the Jews’.
“His is a government which sponsored a Holocaust cartoon competition, condemned around the world and notably by UNESCO. Zarif is the representative of a vile regime and a pariah terrorist state. His presence at Chatham House is an affront to anyone with a belief in peace and justice.”
Sir Eric Pickles MP, chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, said: “The Foreign Minister needs to be clear that Iran will stop funding terrorism and that authorities within his country will cease making anti-Semitic remarks.”
Sir Richard Dalton, Britain’s former ambassador to Iran who is chairing the event, said: “I am glad Iran is present in the Syria talks and that they have an important role in combatting Islamic State.”
He added: “Long-term, Iran should change some of its policies so that they can be part of the solution to several Middle East security issues.
“I would say the same to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraq, the Gulf States, and finally to Arab countries more widely, as regards their unrepresentative and abusive political systems.”