After nearly a year of controversy with US officials over its previous pick, Iran has appointed a new UN envoy. Gholamali Khoshroo, a seasoned diplomat who works to promote former Iranian President Mohamamd Khatami’s “Dialogue of Civilizations,” has been appointed as Iran’s permanent representative at the United Nations, said Iran’s Foreign Ministry in a statement.
The previous pick by by Iran, Hamid Abutalebi, caused an uproar when the United States refused to grant him a visa over Abutalebi’s role in the 1979 hostage crisis at the US Embassy in Tehran, where 52 Americans were held for 444 days. Abutalebi was instead appointed as President Hassan Rouhani’s political affairs adviser, and he has since been active on Twitter promoting engagement between Iran and the United States in Iraq.
In a statement, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said that its protest over Abutalebi’s case remains in place; however, “The Islamic Republic believes that in order to secure its national interests and promote Iran’s place on the international scene, it must use the opportunity to secure Iran’s interests at a maximum level and it is necessary to have an active and effective presence at the United Nations, especially in consideration of the critical regional and international situation.”
Khoshroo, who is currently Iran’s ambassador to Switzerland, is no stranger to the United Nations or the United States and has been engaged in recent years in cultural and religious outreach at an international level.
According to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), he studied sociology at Tehran University and The New School for Social Research in New York. According to IRNA, which is run by the administration, after the 1979 revolution, Khoshroo helped found the Foreign Ministry’s School for International Relations, which helps train Iran’s diplomats. He was dean of the school from 1983 to 1989.
Afterward, Khoshroo went to New York, where he served as an ambassador and deputy representative for Iran at the UN, a position he held from 1989 to 2005. Kamal Kharrazi was Iran’s permanent representative during Khoshroo’s tenure.
Under Khatami’s presidency, Khoshroo was also deputy foreign minister for legal and international affairs. He continues to act as Khatami’s special adviser for the former president’s much touted Dialogue of Civilizations, which he introduced in 1998 at the UN to facilitate people-to-people dialogue, particularly between Western and non-Western countries.
In a March 2014 English-language video, Khoshroo discussed his views on the Dialogue of Civilizations project and the work he does to promote it. In an noteworthy moment, Khoshroo says, “If the [Dialogue of Civilizations] at that time was considered a good recommendation, I think it is now an imperative.”
According to IRNA, Khoshroo “in these years has been focused mostly on the intellectual and theoretical field such as the need for dialogue, avoiding extremism and violence, the role of religious democracy in the Islamic Awakening and the modern revival of Islamic civilization.”
IRNA also reported that Khoshroo “had an active role in designing the method of engagement with the opposing side” during the 2003-2005 nuclear negotiations between Iran and the so-called EU3, comprised of France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Khoshroo is a also a senior editor at the Encyclopedia of Contemporary Islam.