Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Iran's foreign minister arrives in style

The Iranian Airbus A340 touched down at the city's airport yesterday. Photo / Supplied
The Iranian Airbus A340 touched down at the city's airport yesterday. Photo / Supplied

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif talks with Foreign Minister Murray McCully kicked off with some small talk about Zarif's plane and an offer for Mr McCully to visit Tehran in May.

Mr McCully met with Mr Zarif in the Beehive today after Mr Zarif arrived in New Zealand as part of a tour of six countries in the Asia Pacific. It is part of Iran's efforts to attract more investment following the removal of sanctions after last year's nuclear deal.

Before the meeting began behind closed doors, the two discussed the plane Mr Zarif and his delegation travelled over on - a large Airbus A340 often used by Iran's President. Mr Zarif said it was too big for the short trip between Tehran and Moscow.

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with Foreign Minister Murray McCully in the Beehive, Wellington.
Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with Foreign Minister Murray McCully in the Beehive, Wellington.

That was followed by talk of a possible date for Mr McCully to make a visit to Iran which Mr Zarif suggested could be around the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey in May.

He will meet with Prime Minister John Key tomorrow and speak at an event for the Institute of International Affairs. Much of his talks are expected to focus on trade links, but his visit coincides with growing international concern about Iran's ballistic missile testing after further tests last week and reports the missiles had Hebrew inscriptions saying "Israel should be wiped off the Earth."

On the eve of Mr Zarif's arrival Yosef Livne, the Israeli Ambassador to New Zealand, issued a 'personal reflection' criticising the willingness of the international community to embrace Iran.

"Everyone seems to be bent on securing business and in the rush overlook some very serious concerns. While the World is on its way to Tehran, Iran has not changed its aggressive behavior. Its involvement in the Syrian civil strife, its continued support for Hezbollah and just yesterday we received a renewed reminder. The launching of the ballistic missiles with the inscription Israel should be wiped off the map needs no further comments."

Iran has claimed the tests are not in breach of the nuclear deal - Mr Zarif has previously said the deal did not prevent Iran working on its missile programme and it needed no permission to undertake testing.

Israel was opposed to the deal with Iran and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for "punitive steps" from the Security Council after Iran's Revolutionary Guards tested ballistic missiles last week.

US Democratic Presidential contender Hillary Clinton, a former Secretary of State, has also called for sanctions against Iran and the international community to send a clear message it would not tolerate such threats against Israel.

The state-owned Iranian news agency, IRNA, reported a senior military official saying the missiles were designed to be able to hit Israel.

- REUTERS has reported that the US intended to raise the tests in the Security Council this week and the council was awaiting confirmation on whether the missiles were nuclear-capable. After earlier testing, in January the US imposed targeted sanctions on about 11 people and companies involved in the ballistic missiles programme.

Mr Zarif and his entourage will travel to Australia tomorrow where talks with Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop are expected to centre on a deal over the return of asylum seekers in Australia to Iran.

- NZ Herald

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