Lifting All Sanctions
Majid Takht - Ravanchi deputy foreign minister for European and American Affairs is currently working hard on counseling and negotiating for the implementation of the comprehensive solution document which is due to be finalized in Iran - ۵ + ۱ talks by the end of July. Mr Takht - Ravanchi has worked and studied in Europe and America for several years, he believes that western countries will try to move on at a slower pace. “
US President Barack Obama has signed a law that effectively bars Iranian diplomat Hamid Aboutalebi from serving as Tehran's ambassador to the United Nations. We heard that you mentioned Tehran can follow up on the issue through the UN Secretariat. The U.N. spokesman said that it is an issue between Iran and the US. What's Iran's standpoint on this issue? Will he be replaced? Some believe that Iranian officials prefer to send a diplomat such as Mr Araghchi who was previously the deputy minister and is currently a member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team.
To begin I would like to say that Mr. Aboutalebi is one of our prominent diplomats. He has had key managerial positions in the ministry of foreign affairs and previously served as Iran's ambassador to Belgium, Australia and Italy. In the current situation we would need a distinguished ambassador in the United Nations. He worked with President Rouhani in the Center for Strategic Researches in the Expediency Discernment Council. President Rouhani picked him according to his experience and abilities. Unfortunately in the past weeks a series of unacceptable incidents happened. We believe that this issue has nothing to do with the U.S.-Iran relations and the UN should pursue the case. There is an agreement between UN and the US called "headquarters agreement". Under the pact, the US is generally required to allow access to the UN for foreign diplomats. So his visa denial was absolutely against the diplomatic laws. We asked the UN Committee on Relations with the Host Country to address the issue in an urgent and serious manner. We look forward to settling the dispute.
Is it true that Hamid Aboutalebi was the President's choice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs appointed Mr. Araghchi? With the current dispute over his presence in the US, should Iran insist on it? As I mentioned earlier Mr. Aboutalebi is part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with 30 years of experience. He has worked with the President but he belongs to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. About the names that you mentioned, all I can say is that those are all media speculation. There is a procedure for selecting ambassadors in which after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggests the candidates, The President will approve them and after that the ambassador will represent the Islamic Republic of Iran and will cooperate with the President and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called Aboutalebi "one of our most rational and experienced diplomats."
As a member of Iran's negotiations team, how do you evaluate such acts? Can these tensions influence the Iran and 5+1 talks? In my assumption they are not linked to each other. We mentioned from the outset that the nuclear issue is the only subject of the talks with the west and we are fully focused on this sensitive matter. Although we object to not granting a visa to our proposed UN envoy, these are two different matters. We will take the case to the UN, yet in talks we will not deviate from the main path.
Tell us about the nuclear talks. Will we reach the long-term comprehensive solution by late July? So far we have had three rounds of talks in Vienna. The intention of both sides of the table was to talk about the final step issues at least once. Of course we had several rounds of talks about the fundamental issues. Both Iranian and 5+1 negotiators became familiarized with each side's views about the different matters of the final step agreement. The framework is the Joint Plan of Action. We will address the subjects that we believe must be included in the mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution.
A better mutual understanding will help us to reach an agreement upon a formula and bring the two sides' views closer. Negotiations will enter a new phase this month and we hope that by July 20th (End of TIR in Persian Calendar) there will be a mutual view about the elements of the final step of the comprehensive solution. We will do our best to conclude a mutual agreement with a schedule and the implementation. We almost have two months and, fortunately, due to the process of talks there are good prospects to reach an agreement by the late July.
Is there a consensus about Arak heavy water nuclear reactor, Parchin site and other nuclear facilities?
We tend to reach a consensus on Arak reactor and the scope and level of uranium enrichment. Consider that we had talked about the final step agreement through the Geneva interim agreement talks, but in the recent three-round negotiations in Vienna we solidified and strengthened it, for instance, having international cooperation about our nuclear issue.
Dr. Ali Akbar Salehi, the former minister of foreign affairs had talked about Iran's plans for construction of new nuclear facilities and plants in the last year of his tenure. What will happen after reaching the agreement? According to the Geneva agreement, during the final step of timeframe, Iran will accept some constraints; for instance about the scope and level of enrichment or the structure of Arak reactor or the enrichment sites. Following successful implementation of the final step of the comprehensive solution for its full duration, the Iranian nuclear program will be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear member state of the NPT.
Is there any guarantee that after striking the deal, they will not tell us to stop the construction of new facilities and halt the +5% enrichment? Since the beginning of the talks we have always insisted that we want our program to be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear member state and signatory of the NPT. Our most important achievement in talks is the acceptance of Iran's right to have an enrichment program. This shows that we can have a peaceful nuclear program just like any other NPT member.
How many years does it take to implement the final step?
It is not possible to speculate on that.
What is Iran's suggestion?
That is something that must be negotiated.
Two, three or ten years?
There is no specific time period for that.
Is there a maximum limit?
We'll do our best to make it as short as possible.
How many years would that be?
As I said I can only answer this question after negotiating about the time frame and the implementation of the final step long-term comprehensive solution.
Tell us about the sanctions. Will they be lifted at the beginning of the final step implementation or not? Are all the unilateral and multilateral sanctions included in the Joint Plan of Action or there is an arrangement on some parts? The Geneva nuclear agreement between Iran and the 5+1 is about undertaking all the necessary measures to suspend all the sanctions including EU and U.S. sanctions and UN Security Council sanctions. It means that in our assumptions, after the implementation of the agreements all sanctions must be lifted. We might accept some constraints during a particular period of time, however after that, no limitation would be acceptable.
I want to know whether we should expect that all sanctions will be lifted at once in the beginning of the implementation.
It would take some time. There are measures that must be taken by both sides. Of course we would never accept a partial suspension of sanctions as I said after reaching a consensus about the time frame and the implementations. All the sanctions must be lifted.
So can we be hopeful to see no more sanctions after reaching an agreement by the end of this summer?
It is true. The point is that it must be included in the context of the final step agreement.
That is what Iran demands, is it true?
Absolutely. All the sanctions must be lifted. A partial solution is not an option for us.
In the early days after the nuclear agreement, American officials talked about a partial solution and it provoked controversy.
We have been absolutely clear that this would not be acceptable.
Iranian people feel some concern about the Geneva agreement. After three months, no company has sold plane parts to Iran and our blocked funds have not been released. Our petrochemical exports also failed to show a significant increase. Iranians want to know what the outcome of the agreement is.
You are talking about Geneva interim agreement and the implementation of the six-month first step. A Joint Commission of E3/EU+3 and Iran were established in Vienna to monitor the implementation of the short-term measures and address issues that may arise. IAEA Director General Yukio Amano announced in his recent report that Tehran is complying with its obligations under the deal so we believe that we are on the right path.
What is your stand on the effect of bilateral agreements such as the Iran-Russia $20 billion oil-for-goods deal on current sanctions? US has been concerned about the fact that it would trigger US sanctions. Can Iran use this strategy against the sanctions? The ministry of oil has already commented on it.
What is the Iranian officials' view about it? What is your evaluation as a member of Iran's negotiation team?
Americans and Europeans and their allies may have their own one-sided interpretation of the agreed text in Geneva about Iran's economic relations or other issues. That is what they wish for and we strongly reject. The consensus and the measures that must be taken are absolutely clear and no parties can make interpretations based on their own interests. We can negotiate with any country that we want to sell oil to and we are not obliged to do the things that they want. Our national interest is our priority and we decide whom to choose as our commercial partner .There is no Violation of Geneva Deal.
It seems that Europeans are not pro sanctions. A large delegation of more than 100 French companies visited Tehran after the Geneva agreement. It shows that there is a disagreement between The US and EU. I remember that after the visit, and in a joint press conference with Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande acknowledged that he could not restrict travels by French firms, but noted that anti-Iran sanctions will remain in effect, though French businessmen insisted that government officials should accompany the delegation. Europeans give with one hand and take back with the other in this matter. We believe that our business with all Asian and European countries is a two-way path and it should be a win-win process. As you know business people are prudent and the security of their investments and high returns are crucial for them, so business delegations have plans for future presence in Iran. All companies have done a thorough market research and cost benefit analysis to step in. On the other hand, we also undertake such measures to ensure that our interests are protected. Europeans believe that there are lots of opportunities in Iran's market and we analyze the proposals from different companies and investors equally. There is no difference between an Asian and a European company. We are not surprised that so many parties are showing interest in Iran's market. They see significant commercial opportunities amid the easing of unfair and imposed sanctions of the West and constraints. We did not ask them to come to Iran, but there is an attractive market here for any investor. We are willing to do business in a free competitive market. We have received proposals from large business delegations. We are currently studying them. It does not mean that we are against their presence in Iran but this partnership cannot materialize at any price. As I said, a win-win situation makes us interested in a partnership.
Besides business delegations, EU parliamentary delegations have also visited Iran. What is your view on that? Is it due to the fact that President Rouhani embraced relations with the world or because Western governments have become aware of a need for change in their policies towards Iran? It shows that different countries want to expand political and commercial relations with Iran. They fathom that there are many potentials in Iran and want to cooperate with us. We embrace that and seek for the improvement and regulation of Iran's relationship with other countries, however it does not mean that they can intervene in our internal affairs .
Is that the reason for setting preconditions, such as having no visits with political dissidents and limiting them to have only planned visits in Iran? Catherine Ashton's visit with SATTAR BEHESHTI'S MOTHER infuriated some fundamentalist politicians in Iran as did the European parliament's visit with JAFAR PANAHI and NASRIN SOTOODEH Iran has slammed European parliamentarians for the meetings. Don't you think that this contradicts the expansion of relations with the world? As I mentioned earlier we are keen on having relations with different countries based on mutual respect and avoiding intervention in internal affairs of countries. We have always emphasized on this issue. Unfortunately, it did not happen and now it is our precondition for future visits.
What steps will you take if they do not comply?
We tend to have a protocol and hope that they will act according to mutual agreements.
But if they refuse …
Mr. Takht-Ravanchi laughs.
This has happened before. I would like to know about the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' stand on that. Is it limited to summoning ambassadors and Chargé d'Affaires?
Besides summoning ambassadors, we generally object through our embassies in different countries.
Have these objections been effective?
We have some principles and values in our relations and we like other countries to understand them. We think that mutual respect and avoidance of intervention in each other's internal affairs is a must for establishing a relation. Western countries must quit bullying; otherwise we will take a different stand.
You mean Ashton's visit with Sattar Beheshti's mother?
I spoke about the general values and principles and the frame work for maintenance of relations based on mutual respect. Those principles are international and there is a lot we can do together with the international community.
Don't you believe that some problems are due to Iran's diplomats? Is the new government willing to change them?
You mean that Iranian ambassadors are the reasons for these plans ….!?
No. Not in this way, but there might be some disputes and disagreements among the previous government's diplomatic corps and your views. When will they be replaced?
There is a procedure for that and we have started some changes since this spring.
Can you tell us the numbers?
I cannot be specific on numbers. We now have new ambassadors in Spain and Netherlands and there will be more changes. Of course I must mention that these changes are not related to the governments and frequently happen in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Will you use the diplomats who were replaced by the 9th and 10th government in Iran? Many of them used to work with Iran's reformist government.
There is no difference for us. The main selection criterion is experience and abilities; That is Mr. Zarrif's attitude and this will not change.
So you won't judge them according to their political orientations?
No. We believe that we need people with experience and knowledge who are not following political parties and are not influenced by political orientations. Our national interests are all that matter. The ministry of Foreign Affairs does not belong to any political party.
But coordination is a must among top officials in the ministry…
Of course, otherwise we will not be able to proceed. What I am saying is that if the diplomatic corps are selected based on their experience and abilities, we will notface difficulties.
So will you be using people who are close to the beliefs and policies of the previous government? What do you mean by being close to the previous government's beliefs? People have widely different opinions. As I said, political orientations should not be taken into consideration when it comes to foreign policy decision-making. National interests are prior to political party interests. As long as people adhere to these core principles, they can be a part of Ministry of Foreign Affairs.