Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is traveling to New York to attend a conference at the United Nations amid growing tensions between Tehran and the West.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi on July 13 said Zarif will attend the annual session of the UN Economic and Social Council (UNOSOC).
After the UN session, the foreign minister is scheduled to travel to Venezuela for a meeting with counterparts from the Non-Aligned Movement, Musavi said.
He is also scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with Venezuelan government leaders before traveling on to Nicaragua and Bolivia.
Venezuela is embroiled in a political standoff between government forces -- supported by Russia, China, and Cuba -- and the opposition, backed by the United States and some 50 other countries.
Zarif's visit to the UN comes as relations between Washington and Tehran have plummeted since the United States last year pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal, with recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and near the Strait of Hormuz exacerbating the situation.
Washington blamed Iran for the incidents, while Tehran denied any involvement.
U.S. President Donald Trump reinstated sanctions in November 2018 that targeted more than 700 Iranian individuals and entities, calling it the "toughest sanctions regime" ever imposed.
U.S. officials have also recently said Zarif could be subject to sanctions, but news agencies reported on July 11 that Washington had decided for now not to slap restrictions on him, an indication that it may not be closing the door to diplomacy in the tense dispute.
Tensions also rose after British Royal Marines on July 4 boarded an Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Gibraltar and seized it over suspicions it was breaking EU sanctions by taking oil to Syria.
Tehran warned of reciprocal measures if the tanker was not released, with a commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) threatening on July 5 to seize a British ship in retaliation.
On July 11, Britain said three Iranian vessels "attempted to impede" a British oil tanker in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf with the Arabian Sea, but backed off when confronted by a British warship. Iran denied it tried to stop the British vessels.
On July 13, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt spoke by telephone with Zarif, saying he had assured his counterpart that Britain would "facilitate release" of the vessel "if we received guarantees that it would not be going to Syria," in an apparent effort to ease tensions.
Iranian FM Heads To New York For UN Conference Before Visit To Venezuela