More than 200 students, faculty and community members came to the University of Denver’s Anderson Academic Commons on Tuesday to sit in on a historic conversation between Mohammad Javad Zarif, minister of foreign affairs for the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Christopher Hill, former U.S. ambassador and current dean of DU’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Zarif is a Korbel School alumnus (MA ’84, PhD ’88) who also has served as Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations and deputy minister of foreign affairs.
Hosted by the Josef Korbel School’s Center for Middle East Studies, the conversation — conducted via live web conference — covered topics such as Iranian-U.S. relations; the crisis in Syria; internal human rights issues in Iran; and Iranian-Israeli relations. Questions for Zarif were selected from previously written audience submissions.
The live discussion came shortly after the first day of P5+1 negotiations in Vienna over Iran’s nuclear program. Zarif struck an optimistic tone on the negotiations: “From my perspective, I’m trying to see how best we can achieve a goal that is shared both by Iran as well as by our negotiating partners.
“Now we have a possibility to make a change,” he added, “and this change will have an impact not only on how we deal with the nuclear issue but how Iran will deal with the West in particular.”
Hill thanked Zarif for agreeing to take part in the event.
“We’re proud to count him as an esteemed alumnus of our school,” Hill said. “Today our students had a front-row seat to history and the unparalleled opportunity to submit questions and listen in real time to one of the key players on the global stage.”
Nader Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies, echoed Hill’s sentiments.
“The Center for Middle East Studies is thrilled that Minister Zarif took part in this momentous dialogue, particularly at such a critical juncture in U.S.-Iran relations,” he said. “This event will deepen the special relationship Minister Zarif has with the Korbel School, and it places Denver at the center of a truly historic process in international relations.”