'Eager to Reciprocate Bushati's Visit'
By By Genc Mlloja from Tehran
Albanian Daily News
Published August 11, 2017
Iran believes that there are many grounds for further cooperation with Albania in different fields, something which was confirmed by President Hassan Rouhani, who told Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati at a meeting in Tehran in January this year that he supported better relations between Iran and Albania, the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Europe and America, Majid Takht Ravanchi has said.
In an exclusive interview for Albanian Daily News in Tehran Mr. Ravanchi unveiled that the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, was eager to reciprocate the visit of Albania's top diplomat to Tehran, paying a visit to Tirana at an appropriate time.
During the interview, which was held in his office on August 7, the Deputy FM, Majid Ravanchi, dwelt at length on different topics focusing on the main aspects of the vision of Iran's domestic and foreign policy during the second mandate of President Rouhani, who was sworn in on August 5.
Below follows interview:
- Your Excellency, it has been a great pleasure to be in Tehran to attend the swearing-in ceremony of President Hassan Rouhani for a second mandate in office in the presence of more than 100 foreign dignitaries, including EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. Given this special opportunity and your availability to share some opinions exclusively for Albanian Daily News, it would be of great interest to learn what will be new in the second presidential mandate of Mr. Rouhani?
- Yes, thank you very much, and I hope that you have had the opportunity to see for yourself what is going around in Iran. As regards your question on the swearing - in ceremony, which took place on August 5, it was an important event for our people and country. President Rouhani was elected about two months ago by almost 24 million people all around Iran and some 73 percent of electors participated in the elections. There were very lively debates in Iran and it was broadcast live by televisions and the candidates presented their ideas and plans for country's future both on domestic and other issues, and of course on foreign policy questions. On that day people went to poll, and I am sure you have heard that the lines of the people, who went to cast their votes, were long and such an enthusiasm could not be seen. The result was made public quickly and that was the way to do it because everybody was expecting to see the results. As it is already known Dr. Rouhani got 24 million votes and the second candidate, Reisi got 16 million votes. The other candidates got the rest of the votes. But the elections showed that the people were enthusiastic to participate.
So after two months we reached the August 5 when the President had to go to the parliament and swear in in front of the head of the judiciary, and the members of the Parliament. I am glad that you were there to listen to the speech and also you witnessed how many dignitaries were around. It was interesting to see that we had guests at different levels, that is heads of state, heads of governments, speakers of parliaments, foreign ministers, special envoys, deputy FMs. It was significant to see that the guests were from around the globe; it was not related to only our neighbors. We had guests from Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia.
The EU foreign policy chief, Ms. Mogherini was present and she said in her public remarks that she had come to Iran and show that there are many things in common between Iran and Europe, between Iran and the EU, and first and foremost with regard to the issue related to the nuclear deal. We had the opportunity to discuss with Ms. Mogherini and some other dignitaries different issues. I believe that everybody was happy to be here in Tehran and we welcomed their presence. We also believe that was a sign by all those who participated in the swearing- in ceremony and the international community that those who want to isolate Iran are not successful. The event of the swearing- in ceremony proved the fact that those who wanted to impose isolation on Iran got themselves isolated. We are proud to be playing a constructive role in international affairs.
- Please, can you be more concrete what will be new in the second mandate of the President with regard to foreign policy?
- As you might know during the first term of President Rouhani there was a constructive engagement of Iran with other countries and that was one of the pillars of his foreign policy. That will continue to be the case. This has been the policy which has been endorsed by our Supreme Leader, this is the policy which has been followed and advocated by the President and the Foreign Ministry as an institution in charge of running country's foreign policy. It is doing its best to implement this policy. So constructive engagement is the pillar, but we have even to broaden it. This will be a key element in the second term of the presidency of Mr. Rouhani.
Naturally the extension of the relations with our neighbors will be given another priority in our foreign policy and extension of economic ties with as many countries as possible - with Europe, with Asia, with Latin America. Any country wishing to do that we will go for it. Of course, as an Islamic country we will promote solidarity and cooperation with our Muslim brothers and sisters in different countries. I mean countries belonging to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). And Albania is part of it. We will try our best to enhance and strengthen the relations with the OIC member countries. In a nutshell these are the priorities that we will have for the second term of President Rouhani.
- Will the second mandate of Mr. Rouhani represent a new vision on the thorny issue of the nuclear deal, particularly in face of the vote of the US Senate to impose new sanctions on Iran on the ground that your country supports terrorism?
- Definitely we reject all these allegations being raised by the Trump Administration, the House of Representatives or the Senate of the United States. We believe that these actions are politically motivated. As far as the nuclear deal is concerned, Iran has done what it had to do for upholding its obligations based on the text and the spirit of the nuclear deal, that is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). If you look at different reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, you see that its Director General in almost every report being produced since the implementation day of the JCPOA, he has been very explicit saying that Iran has observed all the obligations based on the nuclear deal. So this is our report.
But the US stance has not been the same. It has been trying to create an atmosphere of anxiety and uncertainty for the proper implementation of the nuclear deal which would allow us, should permit us to have normal trade with other countries based on what has been written in the nuclear deal. They have increased or added the names of individuals, of Iranian companies to the sanction list, which will have an effect of creating, as I said, an atmosphere of fear and anxiety. The US should not have been doing this because it has certified the nuclear deal. Rather it should encourage and promote normal trade between Iran and other countries. The actions taken by the US are against the letter and spirit of the nuclear deal and we hope that it will not follow this line which has proved to be something negative for the nuclear deal.
- Mr. Minister, could you please present a picture of the relations of Iran with some other key international players like the EU member countries, China, Russia etc?
- I should say that we have had traditionally good economic and trade relations with the EU countries, with almost every country in Europe. Our economic ties with many European countries go back to decades and Iran and Europe have been doing business for decades. As far as the other aspects of our relations are concerned, we want to have the best of relations with Europe, with individual European countries as well as with the EU. We know that there are certain differences between the two sides. This is a fact which is not hidden. There are issues that we do not see eye-to-eye but, at the same time, we believe that there are many things that will bring EU and Iran closer to each other. I can give some examples. We have already talked about trade, business and investments opportunities. All of these things can be categorized as beneficial for both Iran and the European countries because when you do business it is not that only one side is benefitting. Basically when you do business both sides benefit, which is a two-way traffic. We are eager even to expand our trade, economic and investments ties with Europe. And it is our understanding that even Europe is also interested to be engaged with Iran in economic issues.
As far as other aspects of the relations are concerned we are keen on expanding our relations with the EU because of the challenges that we have today besides the economic aspect of our relations. Just to mention some challenges are the issues of terrorism, extremism, the flow of refugees. These are problems that Iran faces as Europe does. You remember that a couple of years ago that flow of refugees from Syria to Europe created lots of problems there. We have more or less the same problems here. This means that there are common grounds and causes and approaches to address these problems trying to find solutions to them. Thus we believe that these are the necessity grounds that can bring Iran and its partners in Europe closer to each other. We want to have the best of relations with Europe, and I mean the EU and European countries.
As far as Russia and China are concerned, it is a fact that Russia is our neighbor, close neighbor. We are separated from the Caspian Sea. Whereas China is situated in our neighborhood, it is not immediate neighbor but very close to Iran. We have many commonalities both with China and Russia.
Silk Road is one of the topics that is of interest to both Iran and China, and not only to them; many countries are interested in it, including Albania, because it is moving from China reaching Iran and then going to Europe. So this is one project which is of interest for China, Iran, and many other countries. But besides economic ties, which are important for Iran and China and Russia, there are many things at international level that we have more or less common understanding, we have more or less common positions. During the course of the nuclear talks we had very fruitful, very close cooperation with both Chinese and Russian delegations and since the implementation of the nuclear deal we have enjoyed very good cooperation with both China and Russia. So we have special relations with China and Russia and we want to keep them as something necessary for both Iran and these two countries.
- As a powerful economic country, Iran has continuously shown interest in the developments in the Western Balkans. How would you evaluate Tehran's relations with the countries of that region?
- This is a very important region in Europe. Our general approach towards Europe is naturally applied to the Balkan region as well because it is part of Europe. We want to have the best of relations with this region and we want to have the best economic dealings with it. One issue which is important is the traditional, historical, cultural and with some the religious ties. This is another tool in the hands of Iran and the Balkans to get closer to each other. So the Balkans is a special place for Iran and I suppose the Balkan countries have more or less the same feelings towards Iran. We have embassies almost in every country of this region, which are active, and many of these countries have their embassies in Tehran. The security in the Balkans is very important for us and from the security point of view we believe that all the matters in that region should be tackled in a peaceful manner through dialogue and understanding.
- As a follow up, there have been some new positive developments in the relations between Albania and Iran, particularly after the visit of the Foreign Minister, Ditmir Bushati to Tehran last January. What can you say on the perspective of the development of the bilateral links, and are there other exchanges of visits of senior officials expected to concretize this cooperation?
- Definitely, Albania is an important country in Europe and it is an important country for Iran. As I said cultural and religious ties between Iran and this region, particularly with Albania, are important assets for both countries.
We believe that there are many grounds for further cooperation between the two countries. You referred to the successful visit of your Foreign Minister and I was in the meeting of Mr. Bushati with the President, Rouhani. Our President was very explicit in supporting better relations between Iran and Albania. And in fact he was referring to deep commonalities between the two nations. As far as the political will on the part of Iran is concerned, we have definitely the political will and I am sure that from the comments and positions that we have heard from your Foreign Minister and other dignitaries you have the same political will. This gives us the necessary tool to enhance our political but particularly the economic ties because we believe that there are many things that both countries can achieve in the field of economy. Not only traditional trade, I mean import and export between the two sides, but we can be engaged in big projects, development projects. So there are many things ahead of us and we are hopeful that we can achieve great things over time.
As far as exchanges of visits are concerned definitely our Foreign Minister will be eager to reciprocate the Teheran visit of your Foreign Minister, paying a visit to Albania at an appropriate time. We have already agreed to have regular political consultations at the level of foreign ministries and this is another good thing which can provide us with analysis of different issues, exchange of views on different subjects. We think that we are on a solid ground. We are in the right path towards enhancement of our bilateral relations and of course on regional and international issues.
- In the meantime, Albania has sheltered some hundreds of opponents of your government. Are you worried by that issue and the participation of some Albanian political figures in MEK activities, the latest one held in Paris in June this year?
- First of all, let me say that terrorism should not be tolerated by all countries. Terrorism is a menace, it is a threat not only to one or two countries. It is a threat to all international community. This fact should be understood by all. It does not recognize any borders. Secondly, we do not recognize good or bad terrorists. All terrorist are dangerous because they do not want to see good things happening to the people.
The distinction between a good terrorist or a bad terrorist is, I think, definitely misleading. We should not accept any notion that would categorize a good terrorist versus a bad terrorist, good terrorist organizations versus bad terrorist organizations. The organization you referred to has been responsible for the killing of more than 17,000 innocent Iranians. So whoever is dealing with these people should recognize the fact that they have committed so many crimes and they are hated by Iranians.
- Lastly, Your Excellency, Kosovo is the newest independent and sovereign country in Europe being recognized by more than 100 states worldwide. Which are the obstacles preventing Iran to recognize Kosovo when, in the meantime, the EU sponsored dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade continues?
- As I mentioned in my earlier remarks, we think that the Balkans is a very sensitive region. The region is important for Europe. We are definitely interested in peaceful approaches towards different areas of tension in the Balkans. We believe that the only way that issues can be resolved is through dialogue and understanding. That is why we have advocated and supported the ongoing dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. The EU, as you said, is active in bringing the two sides together and we have supported this because we are of the conviction that there is no alternative to dialogue and we are hopeful that a solution can be achieved between the two sides so that the whole region will benefit from such an endeavor. This is our position why we support the ongoing dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. We hope that they will finalize their dialogue as soon as they can.