Iran was the first Muslim and Asian country to recognize Croatia’s independence
My main mission as Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Croatia is to promote relations in all political, economic and cultural spheres, and bring the views of the high officials of both countries closer, says H.E. Parviz Esmaeili Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Croatia. I believe it will be easier to achieve this goal from the path of development of the two peoples’ communications, what is known in the international relations literature as “ people to people relations” relations, the deeper and the more sustainable it will be, says Esmaeili.
- You came to Zagreb and Croatia during the pandemic, so I would like to ask you at the very beginning of our conversation what is the current situation with COVID 19 in Iran, and how did the Iranian Government respond to this challenge?
In the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, Iran, relying on an efficient health system and the dedication of its medical staff, used appropriate and scientific measures to contain the coronavirus and got very good results. The issue that the World Health Organization also approved. In an emergency situation when lives are at risk, all countries help others. But in Iran at the same time, we had to fight with Corona and also deal with the problems of oppressive U.S. sanctions, which did not allow us to access medicines and medical facilities faster and more than domestic products. The U.S. government’s role in increasing the disease and coronavirus deaths in Iran should never be denied.
While we had a good track record of producing vaccines globally, we faced a lack of financial resources because of the embargo. While our assets were in some countries, such as South Korea and India, U.S. sanctions and pressure did not allow us to use our money to provide medicines and vaccines. We even asked IMF for $5 billion loans to provide the vaccines, despite IMF positive response, but the Trump administration stop it, too. The problem of financial resources certainly negatively affected the process and speed of disease control; however, we mobilized all domestic facilities and quickly produced the necessary sanitary materials and equipment. We negotiated with the World Health Organization to supply vaccines from the Kovacs basket, but America’s blockage banking channels still made it hard for us. But the Iranian did not get tired or disappointed. Iran’s strategy against coronavirus is to impose social restrictions based on risk assessment in each region, early diagnosis and treatment with rapid use of antiviral drugs, emphasis on home care and reduction of hospitalizations.
With all the problems we tried to produce an internal vaccine from the beginning, and fortunately we came to a conclusion. Two Iranian coronavirus vaccines were granted emergency use last week, while production of the Sputnik-V vaccine began in Iran. We are very hopeful that by producing 4 to 10 million doses of domestic vaccines monthly over the coming months and continuing to import vaccines from Russia and China, and doing faster and broader vaccinations from next fall, we can move the situation toward normalization and reach the point of collective safety. Statistically, if I may to compare, we had fewer casualties than many Western countries, despite all the problems. No issue is more important than human lives. I hope that as soon as possible we get to a situation where no human being in the whole world loses their lives because of COVID-19, and the lives of citizens of no country will not be jeopardized by political measures such as sanctions.
2.How would you rate the relations between Iran and Croatia, primarily in political sense, and then also in economic and cultural sense? Where do you see most room for progress in the development of bilateral relations, given that Croatia is a member of the EU and is conducting a common foreign policy in that sense?
Iran has been with the Croatian people on difficult days and was the first Muslim and Asian country to recognize Croatia’s independence. For this reason, bilateral relations have always been good and friendly in the political sphere. In the cultural sector, due to the cultural commonalities and interest of the two peoples, our relations have been even better than other sectors. The political relationship between the two countries has always been positive and based on mutual understanding and respect, given Croatia’s membership in the European Union and within the framework of the Union’s common foreign policy, which has been particularly on the path of coordination in recent years to conduct and then support the JCPOA negotiations. The last meeting of foreign ministers of the two countries was in Antalya on June 18 (last week).
Let me emphasize that we expect both the EU and Croatia not to let other forces affect their relations with Iran, which can well serve the interests of both sides. I have concluded that regional unions are positive and would strengthen multilateralism, but membership in these unions should not negate the independence, responsibilities and interests of countries in their bilateral relations. Unfortunately, Relations between Iran and Croatia in the economic and trade sector have been reduced to a minimum due to U.S. sanctions after the Trump withdrawal from the JCPOA. This has been more to Croatia’s detriment than Iran’s. As you probably know, INA was working on a major project in Iran that unilaterally stopped its activities and left Iran through Trump’s illegal action and reimposed sanctions.
In our view, there is space for the development and expansion of economic relations between the two countries in all areas. Croatian Economic officials and companies are well aware that relations with Iran have the capacity to provide their interests. I have met managers of many companies in Croatia. They are well aware of the developments, high technical position and investment capability of Iranian companies. There are many capacities and opportunities for companies from both countries to cooperate in the industrial, agricultural, technological and tourism sectors.
For me as the Ambassador, the conditions are unfair and difficult because of many non-bilateral elements, but I’m not disappointed or tired. We have paved the way for the communication of companies from both countries. We’re moving forward safely. I would like to emphasize that Iran always welcomes the development of economic, industrial and technological relations with Croatia.
3. When it comes to global issues concerning Iran, how far did you come in negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program and what are your positions?
Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program and activities began in 2003 with three European countries, the United Kingdom, Germany and France, and led to the Tehran-Paris agreement. Then, with the start of Dr. Rouhani’s administration in 2013, the Iran- 5+1 negotiations were on the agenda, which ultimately led to the JCPOA. Fortunately, I was with the negotiating team and sometimes with them in the negotiations. My general understanding from both stages of the negotiations is that whenever western sides came to the negotiating table with a positive, goodwill and mutual respect approach, the outcome was positive and in the interests of all parties. Whenever the Westerners, and at the head of them, the United States adopts the language of threats and the approach of sanctions, have caused unnecessary expansion of tension and all suffered damage.
While the U.N. Security Council supported the JCPOA and the whole world was happy to implement it, Donald Trump violated the U.S. government’s commitments, withdrew from the JCPOA and created problems for everyone. He declared a policy of maximum pressure against Iran and developed it in the most inhumane way possible, but of course failed.
While we continued to live up to our commitments to the JCPOA, the European Union did not meet its obligations to normalize Iran’s economic relations with the world and compensate for the U.S. withdrawal.
Now Mr. Biden’s announcement to return to the JCPOA is the best indication that the method of threat to Iran is ineffective and the Trump’s maximum pressure policy has failed. Based on past 20 years of our experiences, in the Vienna talks which are also underway this week, we are trying to come up with a formula that in the future, neither side of the JCPOA will be able to create problems for this important international agreement and others by withdrawing from the agreement. Iran has so far made the most of its efforts to sustain the JCPOA and is now seeking assurances for full implementation of the JCPOA and, indeed, UN Resolution 2231. We have worked with the agency beyond our obligations. Most of the agency’s inspections were from Iran’s nuclear facilities. All of our nuclear activities so far have been peaceful, according to reports from the International Nuclear Energy Agency. At the same time, surprisingly, we have always been under pressure and sanctions. This unfair situation can no longer continue.
4. What would be Iran’s solution to tensions with Israel and what is it that you stand for? What is it that the official Tehran blames Tel Aviv for?
Let me begin with second part of your questions. Our vision about Israel comes from a clear historical truth. This regime was founded by occupying Palestinian territories, threatening, killing, and plundering its people from outset and has continued unabated for the past 70 years.
International jurists know that with crime and medieval approaches, one cannot establish a legitimate and acceptable government in the international community. Although the Israeli government, with the support of the U.S. government and with threats and bribery, was able to obtain the recognition of certain countries, but this will not be sustainable. Israel’s actions over the past 70 years have been the focal point of the ongoing crisis and unrest in the Middle East, which has sometimes affected whole the world. It’s very surprising that the European Union, which for decades has opposed the Israeli regime’s policies to invalidate the theory of the establishment of two states, as well as the development of settlement construction projects and violations of Palestinian basic rights, is not taking serious action to stop it.
I deeply believe that without solving this chronic crisis, not the Middle East, nor the world will not see peace and stability. In the media, you are witnessing the killing and wounding of Palestinians every day, especially children, by Israeli soldiers and the destruction of Palestinian homes. This concerns and upsets all the freedom-seekers of the world.
From our point of view the solution is democracy, The same Western mantra, which is forgotten when it should be applied in Palestine. As the Western mantra of human rights which is not treated equally when it comes to defending the rights of other nations.
We propose holding a referendum with all Palestinians around the world, including Jewish, Christian and Muslim, to determine the type of sovereignty in this country. This forehand has been officially submitted and registered to the United Nations. Why does the international community and Europe not recognize and pursue the right of the Palestinian people to determine their sovereignty and govern their country?!
5. Relations with the US and Saudi Arabia are connected in a way, because these two countries are close allies, and it seems that there are steps forward in relaxing relations with these two countries?
According to the rules and principles of international relations, countries are free to establish their relationships based on maintaining independence and securing their interests. Any government that gives up of this right has oppressed its country and its people.
Equal relationship, based on goodwill, friendship and cooperation with all countries, especially neighboring countries, is the priority of Iran’s foreign policy. We do not link relationships with neighbors to the other factors and evaluate and regulate relations with countries independently based on our own national interests. We also advise our neighbors to do so. Our important condition for building relationships with countries is mutual respect. Accordingly, in recent years, we have not stopped efforts to further improve relations with our neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia. It was Saudi Arabia that was reluctant. Our current president, Mr. Rouhani, even wrote a letter to the King of Saudi Arabia. President-elect Raisi also announced in his first press conference that the Embassies of the two countries will be activated as soon as possible. Dr. Zarif also said at the Antalya conference some days ago, that we are ready to send our Ambassador to Saudi Arabia even tomorrow.
All countries in the region are affected by regional insecurity. The Middle East should not be allowed to become a field of interference or competition by world powers or out-regional powers. This principle applies to all regions, including the Balkans. In recent months, many efforts have been made to end regional crises and bring stability & cooperation, like the Yemen crisis which caused nothing than killing innocents and inflicting great losses. We welcome the positive change of the Saudi approach. The sooner, the better.
6. What will you focus on in an effort to improve relations between Croatia and Iran, and how do you plan to bring the beauty of Iran and everything that Iran has to offer to the general public?
In addition to my political responsibilities, I have been active in social communication and media for nearly three decades. I believe that the capacities that inter-people communication can create and accelerate the great potential for the development and deepening of bilateral relations in all areas. I am glad that the two peoples of Iran and Croatia have good relations. I will try to bring the people of Iran and Croatia closer together by further developing cultural, artistic and popular connections between the elites of both sides and identifying more cultural characteristics, tourism manifestations and social habits and customs of the two countries. So before coming to Zagreb, I told my counterpart, Dr. Drago Štambuk, that we had a common mission, and so I invited him to be complementary.
In order to follow the mentioned tasks, we have submitted a new proposal for direct Tehran – Zagreb flight to the Croatian authorities. These flights should be always full of passengers to Zagreb. We have also prepared an “Iran Week” program in Croatia, which we will perform it in coordination with the Croatian side. In this program, we will introduce new and useful information about historical attractions, tourism and amazing and different manifestations of culture, art and different lifestyles of people in different parts of Iran to the culture-loving people of Croatia. For this plan I have had discussions with the Ministers of Tourism and Culture of Croatia.
There are also good capacities for cooperation in the academic and university sectors, in the humanities, natural sciences and in new technologies, we have many opportunities to work with the Croatian Minister of Science and Education and the Dean of some universities. One of the programs is the establishment of Persian and Croatian language seats in universities on both sides and holding a conference of cultural commonalities between the two peoples in Tehran and Zagreb universities. In Iran’s knowledge-based companies, there are various research projects in the highest standards and the latest technologies that can create suitable grounds for cooperation between the two countries. We continuously reflect these capabilities to the Croat sides.
7. Ebrahim Raisi won the recent presidential elections. What is the basis of his policy in the country, and what kind of policy can we expect towards the West?
The President-elect of Iran, Mr. Raisi, has high political experience, good reputation in important national managements, well aware of the of the people’s demands and, as well as conscious about international relations. As for domestic policies, he has said he will pay more attention to the livelihoods of a section of society that has been hurt more by outrageous U.S. sanctions. Like workers, retirees and fixed-income strata. Improving the business situation, increasing employment, paying more attention to domestic economic capacities and increasing the production of basic goods to meet the country’s needs are between 10 of his main programs. In social contexts, Mr. Raisi has also declared securing social freedoms under the Constitution, expanding justice and fighting any corruption as a priority for the next Iranian government.
As for foreign relations, I must first say that the supreme leader is responsible for determining the principles of foreign policy in Iran and governments are implementing it. Therefore, the framework of our foreign relations will not change. In his election campaign, Mr. Raisi said he would strongly support negotiations with the JCPOA sides. Of course, with the aim of being sure that the United States lift the designated sanctions and Iran verifying it, Europe and the other parties to the JCPOA fulfill their obligations, and Iran enjoys all its rights to trade and normal economic relations with the international community while fulfilling its obligations under the JCPOA. his foreign policy will be outcome-oriented.
In his first press conference since winning the election, Mr. Raisi stressed that the development of Iran’s relations with all countries in a broad and balanced manner, especially with neighbors, would be on his government’s agenda. This approach will surely help stabilize and improve regional conditions. Iran’s hand of friendship has always been open to its neighbors.