The top Iranian diplomat was expected to meet with Italian and Vatican officials.
During the trip, the top Iranian diplomat was set to hold consultations on the enhancement of mutual cooperation and bilateral ties, according to a statement issued by the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
Issues of mutual interest at the international level are expected to feature high in Zarif’s talks with officials in Rome.
The chief Iranian diplomat has embarked on a tour of several European countries which began with a visit to Spain where he met with Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation Arancha Gonzalez Laya.
In Spain, he also met with Spain’s Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism Maria Reyes Maroto, who also co-chairs the Iran-Spain Joint Economic Cooperation Commission.
In his Thursday meeting with Laya, Zarif discussed the latest status of Tehran-Madrid relations in various political and economic fields.
Foreign Minister Zarif reviewed bilateral relations in different spheres, and said the potential for Iran-Spain economic cooperation is beyond the current level.
He then underlined the necessity of exploring avenues for promoting collaborations in different economic areas by removing some of the existing barriers.
Zarif also highlighted the significance of developing cooperation in the field of small and medium-sized enterprises as well as the tourism industry and its infrastructure for activation of Iran-Spain economic relations.
The Iranian foreign minister elaborated on Tehran’s viewpoints regarding the regional issues, especially the need for intra-regional interaction among countries and other important issues of the region including Yemen, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Zarif’s trip to Europe was also scheduled to include a visit to Austria, where diplomats from Iran and world powers are negotiating over how to revive a 2015 nuclear deal officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). But the visit was canceled after the Austrian government decided to show solidarity with Israel by flying the Israeli flag over government offices, something that elicited a strong response from Iran.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi, who is in Vienna for nuclear talks, expressed dismay at Austria’s controversial decision regarding the Israeli flag.
“Vienna is the seat of IAEA & UN, and Austria so far [has] been a great host for negotiations. Shocking & painful to see flag of the occupying regime, that brutally killed tens of innocent civilians, including many children in just few days, over government offices in Vienna. We stand with Palestine,” Araghchi said on Twitter.
A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry told Al Jazeera that Zarif canceled his trip to Austria in protest over the Israeli flag being hoisted over Austrian government buildings.
Saeed Khatibzadeh confirmed that the visit was canceled but he did not say why.
“Mr. Zarif did not consider the trip expedient in these circumstances, and therefore the visit’s arrangements were not finalized,” Khatibzadeh told the ISNA news agency without elaborating.
Stephanie Liechtenstein, a Vienna-based journalist, also claimed that the cancellation was due to the Israeli flag.