Hassan Rouhani
Hassan RouhaniReuters

In his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called for an end to violence and extremism, and warned against what he termed “Iranphobic discourses.”

Rouhani claimed that the “Iranian threat” has been employed as an excuse for crimes in the Middle East over the past three decades, citing as examples the military intervention in Afghanistan, the arming of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, and the assassinations of senior Iranian political figures.

“Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region,” he stated, adding that his country is willing to hold time-bound talks on its nuclear program. At the same time, he called on the world to recognize his country’s right to enrich uranium and insisted that Iran’s nuclear program is a peaceful one.

While he did not specifically name Israel, Rouhani denounced the “occupation of the Palestinian people”, claiming that they suffer from “structural violence.”

“Palestine is under occupation, their basic rights are violated and they are deprived of the right of return to their homeland,” he claimed, adding that there are “crimes and institutionalized aggression against innocent Palestinian people.”

Regarding Syria, Rouhani stressed that there is no military solution to the crisis in the country, adding that the “objective should be a quick end to the killing of innocent people, while condemning any use of chemical weapons.”

He said that his country welcomes Syria’s acceptance of the proposal to rid itself of its chemical weapons.

Iran believes that all challenges can be met with hope and moderation, Rouhani stressed several times during his speech, emphasizing that his country “seeks to resolve problems, not create them. There’s no issue that can’t be resolved.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ordered the Israeli government's delegation at the UN not to be present during Rouhani’s speech. The move is in line with the protocol towards former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who used speaking opportunities at the UN to vilify Israel.

"Despite the recent smile offensive of the new Iranian President, the official policies of the Iranian regime have not changed," Netanyahu said.

“Even as recently as last week, like his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani refused to recognize the Holocaust as a historical fact," he added.

Several hours before Rouhani spoke, U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the General Assembly, and publicly reached out to Iran.

“The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested,” he said. “For while the status quo will only deepen Iran’s isolation, Iran’s genuine commitment to go down a different path will be good for the region and the world, and will help the Iranian people meet their extraordinary potential — in commerce and culture, in science and education.”