Diplomatic Protocols Needed For Zarif Visit to Saudi Arabia
Have you had any direct or indirect contact with the US with regard to Daesh in Iraq?
The US has made certain proposals in this regard but we have explicitly reiterated that we do not see any need for cooperation.
If the necessity is felt, as in 2001 and 2003 when Iran and the US cooperated with regard to the issue of Afghanistan, will Iran welcome this cooperation?
Based on my knowledge of the situation in Iraq and the ruling conditions in this country and considering the fatwas issued by the Maraje’ and the public mobilization which has been formed by the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, I believe that we have passed that juncture and will not return to it.
You have recently had an interview with Ashargh al-Awsat wherein you reiterated that there are certain differences between Tehran and Riyadh over some regional issues. About which regional issues are there stronger differences of opinion today?
There are serious problems with regard to the bilateral issues between Tehran and Riyadh. Our main differences are related to regional affairs. The cases of Syria and Iraq are part of our differences. The issue of Bahrain is also part of our problem in the Persian Gulf region. We believe that the issue of Bahrain is merely a domestic problem. In a meeting I had with the King of Bahrain on the sidelines of al-Sisi’s inauguration ceremony in Cairo, I reiterated that the issue of Bahrain is an internal problem and relating it to Iran or any other country will not solve the problem. We have announced from the beginning that Saudi Arabia’s military entrance into Bahrain will further complicate matters. Right now, a situation has been created in Bahrain where even the King and the Prince of the country are not able to advance their political plans. There are radical forces inside the government who have taken this opportunity away even from the Kings. The struggle in Bahrain is a logical one which believes in a political solution. It is necessary for Tehran and Riyadh to take steps towards the resolution of these differences through serious dialogue. Tehran and Riyadh have numerous capacities which could be used in the resolution of the logical regional issues.
There are hands from outside which are involved in enflaming the Shiite-Sunni and ethnic conflicts. This is the objective of the countries outside the region which pursue a new plan to disintegrate the region. I must reiterate that the success of this plan would mean the damage of all countries of the region, thus, the cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia could help lead to the failure of these plans.
There has been an official invitation from Saudi Arabia for Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani. It has also been claimed that Mr. Zarif has also been twice officially invited to visit Saudi Arabia. You had once reiterated that this visit would need certain preliminary measures. What are these measures which, despite the emphasis of the government on the improvement of relations with our neighbors after one year since the establishment of the government of hope and prudence, have not yet been taken?
Dr. Rohani has shown numerous positive signs with regard to Saudi Arabia since the beginning of his tenure as president. We expect these positive signs to be reciprocated through Saudi Arabia’s positive reactions. At one juncture, the issue of transferring Mr. Rohani’s message to Saudi Arabia was proposed and it is natural that when the message of the head of a country is supposed to be transferred to another country, the head of the receiving country must allocate time for it. If Mr. Zarif, as the Foreign Minister of Iran, intends to visit Saudi Arabia, one of the meetings which should certainly be arranged ahead of time is his meeting with the head of the country. Of course we understand the state of King Abdullah’s physical health but, from the perspective of diplomatic protocol, these issues must carefully be studied.
The second issue is that with regard to the meeting between the two foreign ministers of the two countries, we held preliminary talks with the Saudi officials in order to agree on a certain agenda. Despite the fact that the issue of diplomatic relations in the Islamic countries of the Persian Gulf region is extraordinarily important, both sides are determined for these meetings to lead to tangible results and have positive impacts on bilateral and regional relations and also on international cooperation. I had good talks in Egypt with Saudi Arabia’s acting Foreign Minister with regard to the issue of Mr. Zarif’s visit.
An election was held in Syria, but it seems that some of the regional countries have not yet accepted the presidency of Bashar Assad in Syria. Does Iran pursue any certain policy to help bring the regional viewpoints with regard to the issue of Syria closer together?
Mr. Zarif’s four-point plan which was presented to Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi as a political solution about six months ago still remains on the Security Council table and members of this council continue to discuss this proposal. Furthermore, there are also talks between us in this regard. We believe that the Geneva negotiations have ended and the Geneva-1 and Geneva-2 talks were not able to reach a political solution to satisfy both sides. The reason behind their failure was the unrealistic view of some of the countries involved with regard to the issues of Syria. Thirdly, we believe that the issue of Syria can be resolved in an important operational level inside the region. The influential countries and effective players, including Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, could be part of this solution. In the new era, the Egyptian officials, due to their balanced viewpoints of the regional developments and their realistic look towards the fight against terrorism, are also interested in being involved in the negotiations which could help in finding a political solution. Besides, any regional agreement must also be considered at the international level.
Will this not be difficult for the government of Bashar Assad when it is not officially recognized by some of the regional and extra-regional powers?
It should be considered that on the verge of the presidential election in Syria, a request was made by the UN and of course the US stating that they would carefully study our four-point plan but they asked us to ask Bashar Assad to postpone the elections. Our response was that they could work on the four-point plan but the postponement of the election in Syria would need serious guarantees to show whether all countries or, at least, the effective countries, agreed with the political solution which was presented by the Islamic Republic of Iran or not. Some of the statements made by the US officials in the diplomatic circles and the messages which we have received from these circles indicate that the US has agreed with the coming to power of Bashar Assad for two more years and seeks to find a political solution to end the crisis during this time. Of course, the US’ condition was that Assad should not hold the elections. In our talks with the Russian officials, we mentioned this issue. What the Russians said was that they did not understand the policy with which the US claims that Bashar Assad is illegitimate one day but then agrees with Bashar Assad remaining in power if elections are postponed.
What is important is the choice of the Syrian people. The Syrians have elected their president through a political process and with internal decisions based on the Syrian constitution. Of course, some may argue that this election was held with two or three candidates and many of the opposition members could not participate in it. We must not forget that we live in the Arab Middle East region. In this region, many countries have monarchial systems and many have family systems to administer their countries. In many of these countries where elections are held, the elections are not similar to the elections in Iran, Switzerland or the US and other parts of the world. We see that parliamentary elections are held in Bahrain and a major part of the Bahraini society boycotts the elections and a maximum 12 to 17 percent of the eligible voters participate in these elections. But these elections are officially recognized by many sides. In the recent election which was held in Egypt, the two candidates who competed with each other were not equal and an intense political competition was not seen in Egypt either. But despite the fact that part of the society boycotted the election, the election was held. Therefore, as we talk about the European and US democracies and consider certain indexes, there are different democracies in this region as well, such as the Iraqi democracy, the Afghani democracy and the Egyptian democracy. The people of Syria have made their choice based on the realities of the region and this was their natural right. We hope that through reaching a political solution in Syria at the regional and extra-regional levels and the initiative proposed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, the crisis in Syria could soon be resolved.