The Iranian Foreign Minister said on Twitter that Iran does not deny the Holocaust, distancing the government from the often belligerent stance of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mohammad Javad Zarif began tweeting Wednesday in English from an account, confirmed by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, as part of what appears to be a concerted Internet campaign by the new Iranian government to warm relations with the West, including Israel.
President Hassan Rouhani, who took office last month, is considered a moderate and contrasts with his hardline predecessor Ahmadinejad, who has referred to the Holocaust as a “myth.” On Wednesday, the Jewish New Year, Rouhani tweeted in English: “I wish all Jews, especially Iranian Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah,” using the Hebrew name for the holiday. The tweet included an image of a Jewish man praying at a Iranian synagogue.
The foreign minister’s statement on Thursday came in a back-and-forth on Twitter with Christine Pelosi, the daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, after he too wished Jews a happy New Year. The younger Pelosi, an author and activist, thanked the foreign minister and wrote: “The New Year would be even sweeter if you would end Iran’s Holocaust denial, sir.”
Zarif, who assumed office under Rouhani, was the Iranian ambassador to the U.N. from 2002 to ’07, and a key member in Tehran’s nuclear negotiation team before talks collapsed in 2003—on Thursday, he was given the nuclear portfolio once more. Zarif speaks fluent English, received a doctorate at the University of Denver, and his children were born in the U.S, TIME’s Ishaan Tharoor reports.
See the full Twitter conversation: