Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday his country would be ready to establish “friendly relations” with the United States if it apologized for past wrongs.
“Our slogan is friendly relations with the whole world,” he said.
That would even include “America, if it repents… and apologizes for its previous interferences in Iran, and is prepared to accept the greatness and dignity of the nation of Iran and the great Islamic Revolution,” he said.
“We are still ready to accept America’s… repentance despite the fact that for years it has done injustice to us,” he told foreign diplomats in Tehran during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.
During the hostage crisis at Washington’s U.S. embassy in 1979, Iranian students had famously demanded that the U.S. should repent in return for the release of diplomats. The following year, the two countries cut diplomatic ties, and they have remained estranged ever since.
In a message marking Persian New Year in March 2009, then-U.S. president Barack Obama reached out to the Islamic Republic, declaring: “we know that you are a great civilization, and your accomplishments have earned the respect of the United States and the world.”
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded the next day, saying “change and our attitude will change.”
In June the same year, Obama became the first serving American president to recognize that the U.S. played a role in the 1953 coup that toppled Iran’s elected government—but he stopped short of apologizing. He also insisted that Iran had wronged the U.S., including over the hostage crisis.
The Obama administration was one of six world powers that signed a 2015 deal with Iran, easing sanctions in exchange for restrictions on Tehran’s nuclear program. But the detente was scuppered by Obama’s successor Donald Trump, who in May last year unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear accord and re-imposed sanctions.
Rouhani last week accused the U.S. of being an “oath-breaker,” and his hardline opponents have repeatedly hammered the 2015 deal.