A selection of the latest news stories and editorials published in Iranian news outlets, compiled by AEI Critical Threats Project Iran Analyst Mehrdad Moarefian and Marie Donovan, with contributors Chris Rawlins, Farzin Farzad, Diana Timmerman and Warren Marshall. To receive this daily newsletter, please subscribe online.
Key takeaway: Bi-lateral US-Iran nuclear talks take place in Zurich. Oil Minister Zanganeh announced that construction of oil refineries would continue despite falling oil prices. Criticism of nuclear negotiating team continued.
Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araghchi met for bilateral talks today in Zurich. Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met four times in the week prior to the most recent round of P5+1 negotiations, which ended on January 18.
Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh announced that the fall in global oil prices will not affect the construction of eight new oil refineries, and expressed hope that the price of oil will increase.
Interim Friday Prayer Leader Hojjat al-Eslam Kazem Sadeghi criticized Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, claiming that they are “far from the dignity of the Islamic Republic,” echoing occasional regime criticism of the team. Support for the talks themselves largely continues, though, as evidenced by the Supreme Leader’s careful comments on January 7 that while he “is not against the nuclear talks,” the US could not be trusted as it had stated that it would not completely lift the sanctions were Iran to retreat on the nuclear issue.
- Sadeghi: Recent behavior of the negotiating team is far from the dignity of the Islamic Republic. Hojjat al-Eslam Kazem Sadeghi, Interim Tehran Friday Prayer Leader, criticized Iran’s nuclear negotiating team and said they must understand that they are negotiating with the enemy. Sadeghi warned that the West entered negotiations in order to stall Iran’s nuclear program and help the Zionist regime. (Fars News Agency)
- Oil Ministry: petrochemical market war will not happen. In response to the question of whether the Saudis are “launching a price war in the petrochemical market” after pushing to decrease oil prices, Deputy Oil Minister Abbas Shahri Moghaddam said, “The war to decrease prices in the global petrochemical market has not and will not happen.” He added: “one of the advantages of the petroleum products market is that it is not possible for what happened to oil prices in international markets to occur for petroleum products.” (Tasnim News Agency)
- Oil Minister: We will not stop constructing oil refineries. Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh announced the fall in world oil prices will not affect the construction of eight new oil refineries. He said the production of each of these oil refineries is anticipated to be around 60 thousand barrels per day. Zanganeh expressed hope that the price of oil will increase and added that if sanctions are lifted, Iran’s share in the world oil market will increase. (Mehr News)
Regional Developments and Diplomacy
- Rouhani offered condolences to Saudi royal family. President Hassan Rouhani wrote a letter to the new Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, expressing his sincere condolences over the death of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud. (President.ir)
- Zarif to attend King Abdullah’s funeral service. Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham offered her condolences to the people and government of Saudi Arabia and added that Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will represent Iran in an official ceremony on Saturday in Saudi Arabia. Zarif, who is attending the summit in Davos, travelled to Zurich, and will continue on to Saudi Arabia. (ISNA)
- Zarif talks with foreign officials on the sidelines of the Davos Forum. Foreign Minister Zarif spoke about the latest developments related to the nuclear negotiations during a phone call with EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini. On the sidelines of the forum Zarif met with Former Prime Minister of Lebanon Najib Mikati as well as Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi to discuss recent developments in the fight against terrorist groups and ISIL. Zarif is scheduled to meet his counterparts from the P5+1 on the sidelines of the forum. (Fars News Agency)
- Iranian ambassador to Moscow meets with Russian energy official. Mehdi Sanaei visited Anatoly Tikhonov, Head of the Russian Energy Organization, to discuss the latest developments in the energy market as well as future joint efforts in this area. The Iranian Ambassador to Russia described cooperation in the energy sector as a “driving force” in expanding economic ties between the two countries. (ISNA)
- Iran-US direct nuclear talks begin. Bilateral nuclear negotiations between Tehran and Washington kicked off on Friday in Zurich. The two-day talks are being led by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs, Abbas Araghchi, and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Wendy Sherman. (IRNA)
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