Iran's Foreign Ministry on Monday scrambled to clarify that it still views Israel as a hated enemy, after Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made what some in the media construed as conciliatory remarks toward the Jews and the Jewish state in his appearance at the Munich Security Conference.
According to numerous news reports, when Zarif was asked about his position regarding the Holocaust, he said that "the extermination of Jews by the Nazi regime was tragically cruel and should not happen again." Previously, Iran's top leadership had either denied the Holocaust outright, or challenged the fact that six million Jews were killed.
Zarif also reportedly suggested in a separate interview that Iran would have no problem establishing ties with Israel in the event of a final status peace agreement between the Jewish state and the Palestinians.
Iran's Fars news agency later reported that Zarif had "categorically denied the remarks attributed to him about Israel, stressing that the Islamic Republic's view about the Zionist regime has not changed."
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi told Fars that he had spoken to Zarif by telephone, and that the foreign minister had "completely rejected the remarks attributed to him and declared that the Islamic Republic's stance about the (Zionist) regime is what has been repeatedly announced by the country's diplomacy apparatus and this stance has not changed."
Fars went on to point out that a high-ranking Iranian parliamentarian had recently highlighted the Islamic Republic's ongoing support for anti-Israel terror groups throughout the region, in particular Lebanon's Hezbollah militia.
Zarif himself, the news agency noted, had recently met with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and reiterated Iran's backing.