Friday, February 3, 2023

“Tehran, Riyadh Not Decided Yet to Open Interest Sections”

A top Iranian official says Iran and Saudi Arabia have not yet made any decision to open interest sections in the two countries.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari has, in a Farsi interview with ISNA, discussed a whole range of issues, including Iranian-Saudi relations. The following are highlights of the interview:

[Asked about the possibility of interest sections being opened in Iran and Saudi Arabia, Jaberi Ansari said] When two countries have diplomatic and political relations, embassies are up and running. When official political and diplomatic ties are severed, one of the mechanisms which exist in relations between countries is [to open] interest sections, which could be put on the agenda depending on the needs of, and agreement by the two countries in question.

Usually two countries which do not have diplomatic relations should feel the need before deciding to refer to interest sections to solve their problems and reaching a final agreement through the interest sections.

At the present time when Saudi Arabia has severed its political and diplomatic ties with us, naturally one of the solutions is to use this mechanism due to issues concerning the Hajj pilgrimage, which is the number-one priority for Iranian nationals. But both sides should first agree on using such a mechanism, and then should feel the need to do so, and both should reach agreement on the arrangements regarding this issue in their direct or indirect talks.

Proposals regarding this issue have been put forward by third parties over the past months and exchanged by the two countries, and Tehran and Riyadh have traded viewpoints indirectly via third parties. But the two countries have not reached any agreement on that so far. So, if an agreement is reached, it would be based on the need felt. Both sides have held talks over the past year, but have not reached an agreement yet. If such an agreement is reached, it will be announced to the public.

If the two countries decide to establish relations at the lowest level through interest sections, that will be officially announced by the capitals of both countries.

[Asked whether he has taken to Qatar a message from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Jaberi Ansari said] Before Mr. Zarif (Iran’s foreign minister) travelled to North Africa, I had a short half-a-day-long trip to Doha where I conveyed Dr. Rouhani’s message to the Qatari Emir as well as Qatar’s foreign minister. The message revolved around Tehran’s stance on this very development as well as other regional developments.

[On Iran’s missile attack on ISIS positions in Syria followed by stances adopted by Damascus and the US targeting Syrian fighter jets, he said] These issues are not necessarily related to one another. Before the recent [missile] operation, different developments had unfolded both in Syria and on the international as well as local stage.

One cannot say the developments which have taken place in the past couple of days are all directly related to Iran’s missile operation. Of course, the Syria arena is a complicated and labyrinthine one, and the high number of factors and countries involved adds to this complexity.

A political trend is under way in Syria within the framework of the Astana talks. This trend is managed by three guarantor countries in Astana, and as I said before, a trend is running its course and we hope it will make progress.

At the same time, field developments have taken place, leading to ease of tension while a ceasefire relatively holds in most flashpoint areas in the west of the country within the framework of that political trend. We hope the de-escalation will become more stable in tandem with the trend of Astana [talks.]

Field developments have been unfolding t in Syria’s eastern regions as well as in areas bordering Iraq and Jordan over the past few weeks, and several thousand square kilometres of areas stretching from Syria’s central parts to eastern parts have been liberated by the Syrian army and its allies. Most of the liberated areas had been under ISIS’s control. Anyway, these field developments, which have spanned all the way to areas bordering Iraq, are still underway and have not stopped.

In the meantime, we witnessed moves by international players which, more than ever, showed their interference in the Syria crisis. One such case was the US-led coalition’s downing of a Syrian warplane.

The Americans are not serious and determined enough in confronting the ISIS terrorist group. At a time when the Syrian army and its allies are directly fighting ISIS and tightening the noose on the terror group, the US should not meddle in this crisis in such a way that it will have the clear message that Washington is disrupting the situation and hampering further progress and gains against ISIS. The new developments serve as a political touchstone for the US to show how honest it is in its claim of fighting terrorism and ISIS.

The United States’ double standards vis-à-vis the Syria crisis practically hinders the campaign against terrorist groups. Looks like the Americans are planning to perpetuate this trend and strike a sort of balance between the parties involved, so that they will remain engaged in the conflict and will neutralize one another. This, by no means, is compatible with Washington’s declared policy.

To sum up, not only has the political trend of developments been positive, but good field events have taken place as well. Of course, there have been political and military moves, especially by the US, to disrupt this trend. But overall, it seems political and field trends have been positive.

[Regarding Iran’s missile attack on ISIS positions in Syria, he said] the move was a clear message by Iran to terrorist groups. Right after the Tehran terror attacks, Iran announced that the operation conducted by ISIS will not go unanswered. From one perspective, the missile attack was a direct response to ISIS’s terrorist operation in Tehran and it has a clear message. But in a broader sense, the attack symbolizes Iran’s transparent policy in effectively fighting terror groups, namely ISIS. Our policies are compatible with one another, and the missile operation was in line with Iran’s measures to counter terror groups.

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