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Iran Foreign Minister speaks at Kazakhstan University of Humanities and Law

17 april 2015, 18:41
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif ©Reuters / Murad Sezer
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif ©Reuters / Murad Sezer

Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Kazakhstan last week. He stayed in Kazakhstan until Monday, April 13. In Astana, he meet with his Kazakhstani counterpart Yerlan Idrissov and President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

As part of his visit, Zarif gaven a speech at the Kazakhstan University of the Humanities and Law, in which he touched upon the foreign policy objectives of Iran and its stand on Central Asia, Tengrinews reports.

He thanked the audience for warm the Kazakh hospitality and mentioned the historical bonds between the two nations “that go beyond political considerations."

“We are bound by similarities in culture and tradition, in geography and history. These cannot be broken,” the Foreign Minister of Iran said.

He caled the upcoming early presidential election in Kazakhstan "an important milestone" and expressed his hopes that "it will be in the interest of peace and stability and prosperity of Kazakhstan and the region."

As for Kazakhstan's role in the region, the Iranian Minister said: "Kazakhstan has always played an important role in this region as a harbinger of dialogue and understanding, be it dialog among religions or interaction and cooperation in Asia." 

Zarif noted that Iran was among the first countries to recognize Kazakhstan’s independence. “For us Central Asia is our immediate neighborhood, where we enjoy extremely important and deep-rooted ties of culture, history and religion, in addition to ties of geography,” he said.

“Our companies and experts are active in Kazakhstan and the rest of Central Asua, helping in the promotion of our industry, railroads, roads, construction, etc. Our friends form Central Asia and the Caucasus are investing in various areas in Iran,” he added.

He noted that the Central Asian region was facing many challenges. “But the opportunities are much greater. (…) We are very happy that we have now developed a linkage: Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railroad, connecting Kazakhstan to the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman. It is a unique opportunity for Kazakhstan to have access to international markets,” he said.

“Our region is an important region with a lot of potential. On the South and West our neighbors constitute for us the source of our stability and prosperity. We only want the best for them. In this world today you cannot live in a safe environment if your neighborhood is unsafe. You cannot be an island of stability in a sea of turmoil. If that would have been possible, 9/11 would not have happened. On September 11, the biggest, most powerful and most stable country on the face of the Earth faced the most daunting challenge, because you cannot buy security at the expense of insecurity of others (…). That is why we want stability in the Persian Gulf,” he declared.

The minister said that the challenge for the international community is the fact that “extremism cannot be contained in one country.” In a situation such as this, it is necessary to remove “manufactured crises, because we have enough real crises to deal with.”

“One of those manufactured crisis was the Iranian nuclear issue. The reason I say it is manufactured crisis because Iran had never had any intention to develop nuclear weapons. We don’t consider nuclear weapons to be augmenting our security. And we have a track record to prove it. When Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against us, proven by report after report by the General Assembly, and then the Security Council, which prides itself today of being in the forefront of fighting against WMD, kept quiet for six consecutive years,” he said.

He told of his time working at the United Nations on behalf of Iran as middle level official. He said that he faced closed doors and fears of the Security Council when he tried to convince them that WMD were used against his country.

"Six reports by the secretary general of the United Nations had not produced a single resolution. As long as Saddam Hussein had not invaded Kuwait, you cannot find a single resolution by the SC that condemned Iraq for the use of chemical weapons against Iran. The best they could do was to express concern over the use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and civilians, as if they fallen from sky. But, nevertheless, Iran never retaliated. We destroyed our chemical weapons after the war. So the allegation that Iran is developing nuclear weapons had no place, no evidence. This was a manufactured crisis to create fear,” he added.

This was, according him, a way policymakers covered their deeds by creating the tension and conflict.

“Extremism and violence are serious problems. They cannot be dealt with through aerial bombardments. It is wishful thinking. It was wishful thinking to believe that you can use extremism to topple unfriendly governments,” he said, adding that regional cooperation was necessary. He stressed that “no imposed solution is a sustainable solution,” which the Western countries in particular needed to understand.

He said that the world was going through a long transitional phase. And it was tumultuous, as such periods always were.

“We are going through a transitional phase in global relations. This transitional phase has been a very long transitional phase. We’ve been talking about this for the past 20 some years, since the collapse of the Soviet Empire. And, for a decade or so, we were all wondering where the world was going. The US believed that it had won the Cold War and thought of a new world order. Soon they found out that that prediction was premature. And it spent a good deal of time coming to that realization and at a great cost to the US and international community, and a few wars that took place during that period,” Zarif said.

Transitional periods are filled with challenges, he pointed out. But the Minister also saw opportunities.

“Don’t believe the released nonsense that we are prisoners of structure, we are not, we make the structure, we are the actors,” he said, citing a particular importance of the Internet in the process.

“We are seeing new players in international community. Players, ranging from Internet societies to societies that are virtual, no longer actual societies. Two new actors that can, in fact, supersede nation-states in having an influence on international relations. Look at transnational organized criminal groups, at organizations, such as the Islamic State,” he pointed out.

He added that at the moment any message can go viral, whereas a decade ago everything was controlled by media moguls. Even though the medium can be used by extremists, it can also be used for good purposes and promotion of peaceful values.

“All of us can make change for a better world. And everyone of us has a responsibility, an opportunity to make that contribution. Nobody controls the world anymore,” he said.

In concluding remarks, he spoke of the region as a whole: “We have no history of extremism, we have no history of intolerance, we have no history of anti-Semitism, we have no Holocaust in our record. None of that. This region has been a region of tolerance, a region of coexistence. And we should use that history, we should use that background in order to build a better future for all of us. Thank you very much.”

During the Q&A session, the Ambassador said that Iran could be a “useful addition” to the Shanghai Security Organization in fighting extremism and providing possibilities for growth and development.

Iran is interested in working with the organization more closely, moving from the observer status to the membership, as long as the country is treated on equal footing with other members, he said. The Iranian Foreign Minister also pointed out Iran's interest in greater cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Union.

He also spoke of the sanctions against Iran. He said that the sanctions damaged Iran’s economy but at the same time were beneficial in that Iran had to rely on its own produce.

“We wouldn’t have had an indigenous nuclear program had we not been under pressure. Now we produce almost everything we need. This is not the best way but at least we can be assured that we will not be affected by international pressure to the extent that some others are,” he said.

He said the nuclear deal with Iran would take place if the West realised that “sanctions and cooperation don’t go together.” They are not an asset but a liability, he added.

“We are interested in removing the sanctions but the price is very important for us. Our dignity is not for sale,” the Ambassador stressed.

If the sanctions are lifted, Iran will be supplying oil to all the interested parties and expand their presence at the market in a responsible way. “We never played politics with oil,” he said.

“We can be a safe source of energy for anybody who’s interested. Iran has a track record of not using energy as a political weapon. And we are a reliable partner. Our Chinese friends know this. India knows this, Pakistan, which is trying to develop the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline knows this. And Turkey, that uses our gas, knows this. We can be a major supplier to Europe, just as Russia. (…) The needs are there, the market is there, and the possibilities of supplying energy to Europe and Asia are there for all of us to benefit from. It should be a means of cooperation rather than a means of rivalry,” he said.

By Dinara Urazova

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