Mo­ham­mad Be­heshti Mon­fared: “We see Ukraine as a hub to the mar­kets of Eastern Europe”

Iran's Am­bas­sador to Ukraine on in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity and bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - In­ter­viewed by Dmytro Krapyvenko

The Am­bas­sador of the Is­lamic Repub­lic of Iran talked to The Ukrainian Week about how the chal­lenges of sep­a­ratism and ter­ror­ism are viewed in his coun­try, the re­la­tions be­tween Mus­lim groups, and the prospects of eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion with Ukraine.

How do you view the ref­er­enda in Cat­alo­nia and Iraqi Kur­dis­tan? Would you com­pare the two?

— In the Name of Al­lah, the Most Benef­i­cent, the Most Mer­ci­ful! No coun­try in the world ex­cept for one (Is­rael – Ed.) has rec­og­nized the ref­er­en­dum in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan. Pre­serv­ing any coun­try’s in­tegrity is a very im­por­tant prin­ci­ple in in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics. The key for­eign pol­icy slo­gan of Iran is the sup­port of ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of coun­tries. We have iden­ti­cal assess­ment of the de­vel­op­ments in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan and Cat­alo­nia, with­out dou­ble stan­dards in this is­sue. If the is­sues of in­de­pen­dence for re­li­gious or cul­tural rea­sons are raised, the num­ber of con­flicts will grow rapidly in the world.

Is Iran pre­pared for a re­vi­sion of the nu­clear deal as in­sisted by the USA and Don­ald Trump per­son­ally?

— We con­sider the ef­fec­tive deal to be rea­son­able, log­i­cal and con­ve­nient for all par­ties. It was sup­ported by the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. Iran has com­plied with all the obli­ga­tions it un­der­took un­der the frame­work of the deal. All 5+1 coun­tries have con­firmed this. This is not a bi­lat­eral deal with the United States which, by the way, has un­for­tu­nately not com­plied with its obli­ga­tions. If the Amer­i­can side does not com­ply with the deal pur­pose­fully and Iran re­ceives no guar­an­tees en­vis­aged in this doc­u­ment, Te­heran will re­act ac­cord­ingly.

What do you mean?

— In­sha’Al­lah, it will not get to that.

The US, Rus­sia and Iran all as­cribe to it­self a lead­ing role in the fight against ter­ror­ism. Where do you see a dif­fer­ence in ap­proaches?

— Iran’s leader Has­san Rouhani called on the par­ties to re­ject vi­o­lence and ex­trem­ism at the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly. Peace and sta­bil­ity are the foun­da­tion of de­vel­op­ment for the en­tire hu­man­ity. Ter­ror­ism is the op­po­site process. Iran is very de­ter­mined in the strug­gle against ter­ror­ist groups sup­ported by some other coun­tries. Mean­while, ter­ror­ism is un­for­tu­nately a large mar­ket for weapons, and there are par­ties who are in­ter­ested in that. More­over, the in­ac­tiv­ity of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has en­cour­aged the spread of ter­ror­ism. In

or­der to up­root ter­ror­ism and put an end to it, a real, non­politi­cized ap­proach is nec­es­sary.

There is no such thing as good or bad ter­ror­ism. It is known whose cit­i­zens were the peo­ple that at­tacked the Twin Tow­ers in New York. If we look at all ter­ror­ist at­tacks that have taken place around the world ever since, we will not find a sin­gle cit­i­zen of Iran amongst the ter­ror­ists. Un­for­tu­nately, these ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions are re­ferred to as Is­lamist while their mil­i­tants think of them­selves as Mus­lims. But one should not re­fer to the Wah­habi as Mus­lims. Is­lam is a reli­gion of love, friend­ship, peace and good. Our Prophet preached high moral prin­ci­ples.

How would you ex­plain the grow­ing con­tra­dic­tions be­tween Sunni and Shia Mus­lims?

— The con­tra­dic­tions be­tween Sunni and Shia Mus­lims are not greater than the con­tra­dic­tions be­tween, say, Catholics and Or­tho­dox. There is one God and one Qu­ran. The dif­fer­ences that ex­ist can­not be a rea­son for war. The Shia and Sunni live peace­fully in Qatar. The Shia, Sunni, Ashuri and Chris­tians live side by side in Iraq. There no re­li­gious con­tra­dic­tions there. Mean­while, the im­pe­ri­al­is­tic regimes of the West are con­duct­ing poli­cies to di­vide the Mus­lims, hence the con­flicts.

There is a good his­toric ex­am­ple that ex­plains the essence of these pro­cesses. Lord Wil­liam Gladstone, a Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter of the time of the em­pire, in­vited the no­bil­ity to his of­fice, un­folded a huge car­pet and placed Qu­ran in the cen­ter of it. Who can take this Book with­out step­ping on the car­pet, he asked the peo­ple. They were con­fused. Then Lord Gladstone started rolling the car­pet and got the Qu­ran in that man­ner. We must take this Book from the Mus­lims to own them, he said. So there is a goal: to di­vide the Mus­lims so that there is an­i­mos­ity be­tween them. Un­for­tu­nately, this colo­nial pol­i­tics is still alive.

How close is Iran's co­op­er­a­tion with Turkey and Rus­sia?

— I would like to be­gin by say­ing that we build re­la­tions with ev­ery coun­try in­di­vid­u­ally. Thus, our con­tacts with Rus­sia, for ex­am­ple, have no im­pact on our co­op­er­a­tion with Ukraine. Iran’s pol­i­tics is to have good re­la­tions with all coun­tries world­wide, es­pe­cially its neigh­bors. Strug­gle with ter­ror­ism is what unites us with Moscow and Ankara, first and fore­most. We must co­or­di­nate our po­si­tions in this is­sue. Iran’s po­si­tion on the res­o­lu­tion of the Syr­ian cri­sis is known to ev­ery­one. We have been one of the few coun­ties that be­lieved from day one that this could only be done through ne­go­ti­a­tions, pri­mar­ily be­tween the sides of the con­flict in Syria proper.

For var­i­ous his­toric rea­sons, Ukraine and Iran have not be­gun to in­te­grate into the global econ­omy. What chances do the coun­tries have to win their spot un­der the sun?

— We have a say­ing that goes like this: once harm is stopped, what­ever hap­pens next is for the ben­e­fit. I have quoted our first Imam Ali in a re­cent in­ter­view: “Op­por­tu­ni­ties are like clouds in the sky, they move and fade quickly.” This means that the op­por­tu­ni­ties we have now will dis­ap­pear un­less we use them. Af­ter sanc­tions against Iran were lifted, nu­mer­ous del­e­ga­tions from the West started com­ing to us and busi­ness rep­re­sen­ta­tives started mak­ing the first con­tracts. They see op­por­tu­ni­ties, a ground for fur­ther co­op­er­a­tion. It’s the same with Ukraine. There is huge po­ten­tial and op­por­tu­nity here; it just needs to be used. We, for in­stance, have sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­est in Ukraine and are pre­pared to im­ple­ment a num­ber of in­ter­est­ing and promis­ing projects. We are most in­ter­ested in be­ing present in the agri­cul­tural sec­tor. The Ira­nian side is plan­ning to rent a thou­sand hectares of farm­land soon in or­der to start de­vel­op­ing ex­trater­ri­to­rial farm­ing here and grow pro­duce for fur­ther im­port. We prac­tice this for­mat in many coun­tries but we have de­cided that Ukraine will be the main one in this vec­tor.

An­other im­por­tant seg­ment is co­op­er­a­tion in R&D. We count on co­op­er­a­tion from sea shelf to space, the range of in­ter­ests is quite ex­ten­sive. Many Ukrainian spe­cial­ists, in­clud­ing from En­er­goA­tom, are al­ready work­ing in our coun­try. Air­craft con­struc­tion is an­other topic. We have very good prospects here. We see Ukraine as a hub, a point of en­try to the mar­kets of Eastern Europe. Take petro­chem­i­cals: we first en­ter the Ukrainian mar­ket with an in­ten­tion to cover the mar­kets of Eastern Euro­pean coun­tries in the near fu­ture. Plus, we cre­ated a work­ing group for trans­port and en­ergy at an in­ter­gov­ern­ment meet­ing in March. A project in the field of rail­way trans­porta­tion is at the stage of ne­go­ti­a­tions. We are in­ter­ested in ex­port­ing Ira­nian medicines to Ukraine with a prospect of go­ing to the mar­kets of Eastern Europe as well. A del­e­ga­tion of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from our phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try has ar­rived to Ukraine. An­other del­e­ga­tion has come from Is­fa­han province to or­ga­nize the pur­chase of grains.

What do in­vestors from Iran seek to in­vest in Ukraine?

— When I came to Ukraine I found out that no Ukrainian-Ira­nian in­ter­gov­ern­ment meet­ings had taken place for 11 years. I have been work­ing in Ukraine for three years now, and the sev­enth such meet­ing is about to take place in Te­heran. 2016 saw a 30% in­crease in trade turnover be­tween our coun­tries. In HI 2017, we see an­other 30% in­crease. Ira­nian busi­ness­men have no spe­cial re­quire­ments for Ukraine. What is needed is laws pro­tect­ing pri­vate prop­erty, in­vest­ment, guar­an­tees and some pref­er­ences, cus­toms duty hol­i­days or some­thing like that.

What should Ukrainian diplo­mats do to make Ukraine more vis­i­ble for Iran?

— Ukraine’s new am­bas­sador to Iran is quite ac­tive. But diplo­mats are not enough to have full-fledged co­op­er­a­tion. We now have six flights be­tween Kyiv and Te­heran. We could well in­crease that num­ber to four­teen. Tourism is an­other im­por­tant vec­tor to be de­vel­oped. Plus, co­op­er­a­tion in ed­u­ca­tion. The pro­ce­dure for ob­tain­ing a Ukrainian visa has been some­what sim­pli­fied for the cit­i­zens of Iran, but dif­fi­cul­ties re­main, so we ex­pect changes in that. We are ready to even dis­cuss visa-free travel regime be­tween our coun­tries. Or we hope at least to sim­plify visa pro­ce­dures for two cat­e­gories of cit­i­zens: busi­ness­men and tourists. This is im­por­tant for the re­in­force­ment of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. Hen­nadiy Zubko has said re­cently that Iran will be on the list of coun­tries with which Ukraine has a sim­pli­fied visa regime.

But this prom­ise has not been ful­filled so far. Mean­while, some tiny coun­tries have re­ceived that sim­pli­fied regime. Even if their en­tire pop­u­la­tion comes to Ukraine as tourists, it is in­com­pa­ra­ble with what Iran can of­fer. Our peo­ples have com­mon roots as Pavlo Klimkin has said re­cently. Mean­while, the coun­tries that have no deep his­toric and cul­tural ties with Ukraine are on the list of those with sim­pli­fied visa pro­ce­dures. Iran is not there. Ira­nian tourists are dis­ci­plined, gen­er­ous and love Ukraine. We do hope to see Ukrainian tourists in our coun­try soon too. We have opened a con­sulate or­ga­nized to con­sider all is­sues of the ap­pli­cants within one day.

Mo­ham­mad Be­heshti Mon­fared is an Ira­nian diplo­mat, a grad­u­ate of the Univer­sity of Te­heran. He pre­vi­ously served as Iran's am­bas­sador to Ethiopia and Bangladesh. He was appointed Am­bas­sador Ex­tra­or­di­nary and Plenipo­ten­tiary to Ukraine and Moldova in 2014.

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