Indeed, the Iranian foreign minister is of the conviction that predisposition toward either the East or the West no longer works, and is not even possible. Thus, to implement this vision, Iran has needed to adopt a more proactive approach toward regions that had previously gone unnoticed.
Earlier this year, Zarif was slated to travel to Latin America along with a major economic delegation. However, this tour was postponed due to the escalating tension and eventual halt in diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which was triggered by the execution of dissident Saudi Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and the ensuing storming of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran by hard-line protesters. In this vein, it is said that the Latin America tour will take place next month.
Meanwhile, Zarif’s plans to visit the Asia-Pacific region in March were left unchanged. Zarif had very important economic goals for this tour, which included stops in four Asian countries (Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand) and two Pacific ones (Australia and New Zealand). Of note, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in parallel brought up the importance of collaborating with Asian countries. During his March 15 meeting with the visiting president of Vietnam, Khamenei indeed stated that cooperation with Asian nations is Iran’s definite policy.
One of the senior Iranian diplomats who accompanied the Iranian foreign minister on his Asia-Pacific tour told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “The No. 1 priority of these visits was to expand bilateral economic relations with these countries. Iran wants to expand and diversify its economic relations with other countries. As such, this tour was in a way a declaration of Iran’s capabilities and [about] encouraging these countries to pay attention to the Iranian market.”