Appointment of Iran’s new ambassador to Berlin signals a clear message to Washington

Ali Majedi-Iran's ambassador to Germany
Ali Majedi-Iran's ambassador to Germany

Appointment of a new ambassador to Berlin signifies that Europe can be more active in Iran’s interactions with the rest of the world.

Settlement of Iran’s nuclear case would be far from possible with no US approval, but all parties to the talks should play an active role in solving the dispute. […]

Recently, in a statement, the Europeans expressed dissatisfaction with the glacial pace of cooperation between Iran and the IAEA prior to the release of the official report of the International Atomic Energy Agency. In fact, that seemed to be a complaint [on their part] about what Washington has done to diminish Europe’s clout in P5+1.

Although Europe’s Big Three (namely Germany, France and Britain) are pursuing the nuclear talks through [EU’s] Catherine Ashton and have been kept posted on everything including trilateral negotiations between Iran, the US and Russia, Tehran needs to enter separate talks with all parties involved as it follows nuclear negotiations with P5+1.

What you just went through was part of Ali Majedi’s views in response to questions raised by Sharq Newspaper (2,120th issue). Majedi, who has majored in economics, served as a diplomat in the UAE, Brazil, Commonwealth States and Japan back in the 1980s.

Following the appointment of Bijan Namdar Zanganeh as oil minister in the reformist government of Mohammad Khatami, Majedi became deputy oil minister for international affairs and built on an “energy-diplomacy” mix to shine in talks with the Russians.

As a member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team chaired by Hassan Rouhani [2003-5], Majedi was the head of the economic working group in nuclear talks with Germany, Britain and France which resulted in an agreement in Sa’adabad, Tehran.

He is expected to leave for Berlin shortly to serve as Iran’s ambassador to Germany. His appointment would get the following message across: Western countries are reclaiming their main place in diplomatic and economic relations with Iran.

The train of normalization of ties between Iran and the international community is on the move. Some have missed the global peace-destined train because of their failure to appreciate the concept of compromise and because of a Netanyahu-like mentality manifested in the childish graph he showed the world two years ago. The following is the translation of the interview:

Before a recent round of nuclear talks in New York, the European Union released a statement to signal dismay over the sluggish pace of cooperation between Tehran and the IAEA. What do you think the overall reaction of Iran’s foreign diplomacy should be?

The latest report by the IAEA suggests that Iran has fully implemented its voluntary measures. […] The EU is doing so to complain about their less active role in nuclear talks, for which they blame Washington. […] Europeans know what has happened in talks between Iran, the US and Russia. I believe that Iran should enter separate talks with Europe’s Big Three, although any solution would be a remote possibility without US approval. […]

I think we should give more weight to talks with each European country; this has been also echoed by the Europeans. The statement which is attributed to the UN nuclear watchdog seems like a diversion; perhaps the Europeans want to imply that they are seeking a bigger share and a more significant role in nuclear talks with Iran.

What do you plan to do in this regard as Iran’s new ambassador to Germany?

I had a meeting with Foreign Minister Zarif who asked me to be in touch with the Germans given their growing role in nuclear talks as soon as I get there. With the extensive international media coverage given to Iran-US talks and marginalization of Europe in such talks, the Americans seem to have been given a more active role. This comes as the Europeans have always been a weighty factor in the talks.

Given your previous post as deputy oil minister, do you think diplomacy can help solve economic problems?

The country’s diplomacy for which the Foreign Ministry is mainly responsible also covers economic issues. In today’s world where Iran is a key oil and gas producer, the Oil Ministry can be instrumental in economic diplomacy.

The ministry’s role can be activated through its Department of International Affairs and it can be a big help for the foreign policy machine. Cooperation between these two ministries could create valuable opportunities for Iran’s economy and in some cases it could reduce the threats. […] I hope my successors help the country in its march toward progress.

You mean reclaiming the oil markers Iran has already lost is a secondary goal of nuclear talks?

The onus is on the National Iranian Oil Company to sell Iran’s crude. But the oil ministry’s policies and the country’s diplomatic decisions could spark a rise in oil sales. […]

Iran’s gas is a major issue too. […] The gas and oil fields Iran shares with other countries have yet to get due attention so much so that one can say the previous government lacked a distinct plan for tapping into these fields’ potential.

Reports have disclosed multifold exploitation by certain Persian Gulf countries of these joint fields. Do you substantiate such reports?

Unfortunately they are true. Worse than that, in some cases no talks have been held with these countries. As for the use of the joint fields, a new attitude is needed and this question should be put forward: If a country uses a joint field double as much without the prior knowledge of the other country what can be done in terms of international law to challenge them in international circles?

This brings to the fore the role of economic diplomacy. I think we should enter serious talks with countries with which we share over 20 oil and gas fields. The oil ministry’s international department can play an earnest role in this.

How willing have foreign firms been to cooperate with Iran ever since the eleventh government has taken office? Is Iran ready to change the format of its oil contracts? How do you think this [possible] change of format can affect the lifting of sanctions and increasing oil sales?

International sanctions against Iran have nothing to do with the format of contracts. I think many Western countries and companies will return to Iran once the sanctions are lifted. They don’t think the previous contracts are satisfactory. For instance, they are not interested in buyback agreements and Iran has yet to put forward new contracts.

First of all, sanctions should be lifted, and then the contracts should be attractive enough. Foreign firms would choose from attractive options in Iran. […] For oil companies, the security of target countries comes first. Currently Iran is enjoying relative stability.

Recently I had a meeting with Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak, who voiced his country’s willingness to invest in oil and gas projects in northern Iran. The question is: Why don’t other countries and multinationals follow suit?

Let’s go back to Germany and its role in nuclear talks. How much do you think Berlin can help the talks end conclusively?

Germany is an important European player, both politically and economically. I would do my best to contribute to the advancement of the talks. But we shouldn’t forget the fact that sanctions are not a proper tool for advancing international policies in today’s world. The continued use of economic sanctions could push the world back to the brink of bipolarization and the Cold War.

The economic sanctions against Iran are unjust. All in all, international sanctions are not in the interests of peace and stability as well as free trade in the world.

Some observers hold that nuclear talks are more of a one-on-one between Iran and the US than talks between Iran and P5+1 and that other countries have a ceremonial role. How far does a louder voice of Europe in the talks can help Iran serve its own national interests?

We need to work on this more. Back in 2003-05 as the US applied pressures, the European Three took on a moderating role. We also need to make the Americans play their own share in the talks and help Europe get rid of US pressures.

I would try to remind the Germans of Iran’s peaceful intentions and its role in stabilizing the world, and stress that Iran could be a safe trade partner for the Germans.

How much do you think the New York trip by the Iranian president for the UN General Assembly affected nuclear talks?

Such talks are time-consuming and we shouldn’t wait for immediate results. As a weighty figure, President Rouhani lent added weight to Iran’s team in the talks. […]

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