As the Iranian negotiation team arrived today, May 13, in Vienna to begin the process of drafting a final nuclear deal with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1), Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s foreign policy adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, has lent his support to the current Iranian negotiators while rejecting the methods of the previous teams.
Velayati is a longtime adviser for Ayatollah Khamenei. He was the foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran from 1981 to 1997 and currently heads the Center for Strategic Research, President Hassan Rouhani’s previous job.
“The nuclear negotiating team has been formed with individuals who have a long history of diplomatic and international work,” Velayati told the Islamic Republic News Agency, which is managed by the administration. “All of the members of the negotiation team were my colleagues when I was at the Foreign Ministry, and I know them well."
He added, “They all have a long history and experience in negotiations, especially internationally, and they are all skilled individuals. As long as they move within the framework of the principles drawn out by the supreme leader, they will be supported.”
Velayati said, “The negotiations have a foundation whose principles were determined by the supreme leader and the negotiators should negotiate through this framework.” He added that as long as they continue to move in the direction determined by Khamenei, they “should not be weakened” by critics.
“I did not approve of the methods of the previous negotiations,” said Velayati, referring to the team headed by Saeed Jalili from 2007 to 2013. “Negotiations have special rules. You have to have patience in negotiations and listen to what the opposing side says and [then] speak what is rightfully ours. Continuing negotiations and showing patience does not mean that someone is outside the determined framework.”
This is not the first time Velayati has criticized Jalili. Both Jalili and Velayati were candidates in the 2013 presidential election. During the televised presidential debates, Velayati openly criticized Jalili for how he was conducting the negotiations with the P5+1. This was one of the first times it became clear that there was a difference of opinion within the top leadership of the Islamic Republic over how the negotiations were being handled. Ayatollah Khamenei has the final say on the nuclear program.
While asserting that he was “certain” of Iran’s nuclear negotiators, Velayati said some of the “undesirable” methods of US Secretary of State John Kerry were predicable. He said that after one of the rounds of talks, Kerry immediately began making critical comments against Iran. He said, “The secretary of state does not have the confidence to say publicly what he says at the negotiation table. Apparently it's to satisfy the Zionists and their lobbies in America and other critics.” Velayati called this type of interaction “hypocritical.”
Velayati said that since the negotiations “are under the supervision of the supreme leader” and “Enough attention has been paid to the methods of the negotiations,” that he does not have any “concerns” or see a reason to be “worried.” The comment was directed at critics of the nuclear deal who held the “We’re Worried” conference on May 3.
Velayati said that as head of the Center for Strategic Research, a think thank that operates under the direction of the Expediency Council, he has met with officials from the Foreign Ministry at their request. He said the reason for the meetings was for them to become familiar “with the details of the foundations of diplomacy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”