Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, Key Figure in Iran Nuclear Deal, Resigns

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif react during a plenary session at the United Nations building in Vienna Austria

Iran's foreign minister has announced his resignation, an abrupt departure that could further undermine the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Western powers.

The 59-year-old veteran diplomat first offered a vague Instagram post with an "apology" for his "inability to continue to his service".

If Rohani does accept Zarif's resignation, it wasn't immediately clear who would assume the post.

Zarif played an important role in striking a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers. Following the USA withdrawal under President Donald Trump, Zarif and the European signatories - namely the European Union as well as Britain, France and Germany - have sought to save the deal by launching a mechanism to uphold trade benefits promised to Iran.

Cliff Kupchan, chairman of the Eurasia Group and a longtime Iran watcher, described Zarif's resignation as a "bolt from the blue" from a diplomat who had served as "the face of Iran" for years. No official explanation was provided by the foreign minister either on Twitter or any other social media platform.

What's next: It is still unclear whether Rouhani will accept Zarif's resignation. But Deputy Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sayyed Abbas Moussawi confirmed the authenticity of the message to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.




"It will be very interesting to see the reactions of the Iranian public to this decision", he said.

Zarif's email exchanges with Kerry at critical moments, including during the arrest of 10 USA marines in Iranian waters in 2016, defused tensions between the two countries that have had no political ties since 1980. Since then Mr Trump's administration has reimposed harsh economic sanctions that were lifted under the deal.

While former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry established a working rapport with Zarif, the Trump administration has taken a much harder line toward the so-called moderate, including one State Department official recently tweeting an unflattering GIF of Zarif saying: "How do you know @JZarif is lying?"

Born in 1960, Zarif lived in the USA from the age of 17 as a student in San Francisco and Denver, and subsequently as a diplomat to the United Nations in NY, where he served as Iran's ambassador from 2002 to 2007.

However the U.S. has threatened sanctions on European companies doing business with Iran, putting the future of the deal in doubt.

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