Friday, September 22, 2023

Iran foreign minister says Tehran’s choices not limited to Russia, China

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said in a televised interview that Tehran would maintain its relations with countries while pursuing its “Look to Asia” policy, but hastened to add that the Islamic Republic “will never allow Russia or China to think that they are our only choices.”

The minister reiterated Tehran’s firm determination to safeguard the country’s national interests and independence following a joint statement issued last week by the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Russia that challenged Iran’s sovereignty over the three Persian Gulf islands of Abu Musa, the Greater and Lesser Tunbs.

Iran interacts with Russia and China based on its own interests and would never let them harm the Islamic Republic’s independence, national sovereignty and territorial integrity, he added.

In their statement, the GCC and Russian ministers said the issue of the three Persian Gulf islands should be settled through bilateral negotiations or the International Court of Justice, in accordance with the rules of international law and the United Nations Charter.

Elsewhere in his wide-ranging interview, Amirabdollahian stated that the country’s full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and potential accession to the BRICS group of emerging economies will promote multilateralism and counter unilateral policies, including sanctions.

He added that Iran’s full membership in the SCO was among the achievements of the administration of President Ebrahim Raisi’s foreign policy and will improve people’s livelihood.

At the end of the 23rd virtual summit of the SCO Council of Heads of States on July 4, Iran gained full membership of the world’s largest regional organization in terms of geographic scope and population. Iran’s national flag was raised at the bloc’s Secretariat compound in Beijing on July 5.

Iran and the organization started a formal process for Tehran’s accession to the bloc in March 2022. In September of the same year, Iran signed a memorandum of commitment to join the SCO. A month later, the Iranian parliament approved the country’s accession to the organization.

Amirabdollahian pointed to the outcomes of Iran’s accession to the SCO and said Iran will enjoy all the facilities available to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states in the economic and commercial domains.

The chief Iranian diplomat, however, emphasized that the SCO is not just an organization that focuses only on economic issues, but it also includes cooperation in the fields of security, culture, military, anti-terror fight, science and technology.

Pointing to Iran’s potential accession to the BRICS, the senior diplomat stressed that President Raisi has been officially invited to take part in the powerful bloc’s 15th summit in South Africa from 22–24 August 2023.

He added that Iran’s potential membership in the five-state bloc would provide the country with an opportunity to make use of great capacities from Africa to Asia, Latin America and other countries.

BRICS is comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The group’s members host around half of the world’s population besides representing one-fifth of the global economy.

Iran is among more than a dozen countries that seek membership in the bloc and has submitted a formal application to join the body. The Islamic Republic has described its objectives as in alignment with those of the BRICS countries.

“The world today is not a world of unilateralism. A new international order is shaping in the world. One of the features of this new order is the countries’ focus and attempts to move from unilateralism to multilateralism,” the Iranian foreign minister continued.

Referring to the opening of a new chapter in Iran-Saudi Arabia relations, Amirabdollahian said the Saudi rulers have come to the conclusion that ties between the two countries should be restored based on neighborliness and mutual respect.

Restoration of ties between Tehran and Riyadh would secure mutual interests and result in positive outcomes for the entire region, he added.

He noted that Iran and Saudi Arabia have different views but share a stance on some issues.

The top Iranian diplomat dismissed the notion that Tehran and Riyadh have reached just an economic agreement, explaining that the two sides agreed to improve mutual relations and investment through sustainable economic cooperation despite different political views in some areas.

Following several days of intensive negotiations in Beijing, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed on March 10 to resume their diplomatic ties and reopen their embassies within two months.

In a joint statement after signing the agreement, Tehran and Riyadh highlighted the need to respect each others’ national sovereignty and refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of one another.

They also agreed to implement a security cooperation agreement signed in April 2001 and another accord reached in May 1998 to boost economic, commercial, investment, technical, scientific, cultural, sports, and youth affairs cooperation.

The minister also said Iran would continue the path of negotiations with the United States and European countries but would never cross its red lines.

Amirabdollahian added that Iran is making efforts to tackle the impacts of unilateral US sanctions.

Despite the sanctions, he noted, Iran succeeded in increasing the value of its trade exchanges with its neighbors to more than $90 billion.

Tehran has also raised its economic exchanges with European countries in spite of certain political challenges, he said.

Amirabdollahian added that Iran has maintained its ties with Britain, Germany and France – the three European parties to the 2015 nuclear deal – but argued that Europe is not confined only to these three countries.

“There are other large sectors in Europe that we interact with without any challenge,” the Iranian minister stated.

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