Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia and Pacific Affairs Ibrahim Rahimpour is due in Cyprus today for contacts with Cypriot officials. Here he answers questions posed by Dr Andrestinos Papadopoulos about Cyprus-Iran ties ahead of the visit
Q: Your Excellency, minister, your presence in Cyprus is a reflection of the reality that the relations between the two countries have been strengthened over the recent years. What is your assessment of the bilateral relations between the two countries, and the role Cyprus has yet to play in the Middle East?
A: Iran and Cyprus are geographically located in a position that hosted ancient civilisations, and various parts of this area have always maintained strong relations with one another.
The bilateral relations between Iran and Cyprus over the past decades has been of positive nature, and is enjoying an expanding trend even though this mood has slightly suffered from unjust and unfair sanctions on Iranian people.
However, despite these pressures, the two countries have maintained a good level of relations, expressing their interest in the promotion of cooperation. Signing agreements during the last year is a vivid illustration on the determination of both sides to provide a conductive ground for expansion of cooperation’s. With the new political and international perspective, we believe that everything is ready to boost the relation between two countries.
Regarding the role that Cyprus can play in the Middle East, we believe that all neighbouring countries are determinants of the future of this region, and any proceeding, whether of positive or negative effect on this domain, will reflect its effect onto all the surrounding countries.
Thus, all countries must view developments and issues in this region with the utmost sensitivity. The Middle East is one of the most significant locations in the world, an area that certain forces are seeking opportunities & ways to create instability and a security vacuum. As nations living in this region, we must use our resources to the utmost efficiency to maintain the stability and security of this area. Given these circumstances, Cyprus as a member state of the EU is well located to play a crucially valuable role in maintaining peace and stability of the eastern Mediterranean and the wider Middle East.
Q: The 5+1 agreement that took place last July, is remembered as a diplomatic masterpiece. Regardless of the multiple interpretations that are made about this deal, and the executive impediments that can be foreseen, what is your assessment of its implementation?
A: as you have pointed out, the achievement of the agreement itself is a memorable development marking the history of international relations. It is the first time that an agreement of such dimensions, holding multiple resolutions from the United Nations has been achieved through dialogue and diplomacy, a solution that both sides consider a win. The Vienna agreement is a document with plenty of technical and specialised complexities, and naturally its implementation requires necessary attention on both sides. Since the nuclear programme of the Islamic Republic of Iran is an exclusively peaceful one, there is no specific impediment or obstacle to the implementation of the agreement.
The important point in this regard is confidence building between the parties, which is based on mutual recognition and understanding of each other during the long nuclear negotiations held between them. Of course it is necessary to mention that there is a third party disenchanted with this agreement, seizing any opportunity to undermine this agreement, creating obstacles toward its implementation, but the will and determination observable in both parties calls upon optimism.
Q: The Sunni extremism that has manifested in the form of the Islamic state (ISIS) in the already convulsive Middle East has caused severe instability in this region. What is your perception of the role Iran can play?
ISIS is actually a symbol of extremism and barbarianism that may have nothing to do with any religion, race, ethnic or geography. The crimes and atrocities committed by ISIS cannot be justified by any religious teaching. Should all countries express their disgust towards extremism and extremists by their deeds rather than words, this phenomenon and its elements will be dismissed.
The fight against extremism is a globally unifying challenge which calls for all countries participation. From the beginning, Iran has time and again renounced any form of extremism, and it`s quite well known that Iran was the only country that helped Iraqi government to defend Baghdad against ISIS.
To our regret, there are countries with vested interest in chaos and tension in the Middle East that have mobilised all their financial and spiritual possibilities to help brew and create extremist groups helping with the establishment of such groups in the regions of interest.
There are elements that are being used as ISIS fighters for bloodshed in Syria and Iraq, from various nationalities and countries. But they are all pursuing a common goal, and this goal is nothing but presenting an unrealistic and violent image of a divine religion, planting the seeds of hatred among human beings. The message that these extremists are propagating are totally in contradiction with the message of dialogue among civilisations, religions and recent suggestions by the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, H.E. president Rohani, at the UN general assembly under the title of; The World Against Violence and Extremism (WAVE).
It is quite natural that these two messages, one directed at violence, killing, and bloodshed, and the other of peace, tranquility, and dialogue for collective growth of human capital are opposing forces. That is why one of the ISIS extremist objectives is spiritual attacks against Iran. I have to emphasise that fighting this phenomenon needs honest will and dedication of all countries, international cooperation, and participation of all who oppose extremism is any form. Iran is always ready to play its role within such frameworks.
Q: Getting back to Cyprus, what are your views on recent developments regarding Cyprus Issue and energy in this country?
The Cyprus issue and helping toward a solution has always been a matter of attention for Iran. The sad division of the island has cost Cypriots from both communities not only the peace, but also the prosperity of at least two generations.
As a friendly country to Cyprus, we are closely monitoring the resumption of the negotiations. The results-oriented approach and determination on both side are promising signs and a matter of appreciation. The will and dedication of leaders of both communities to reach a durable agreement is unprecedented and we admire such efforts.
Dealing with such an old issue, perhaps interdependent with the new dimensions, the negotiating parties are quite naturally facing a number of technical problems that should be reviewed meticulously to finding a suitable solution for each one of them.
But with such dedication, we wish to believe that the final solution is achievable. The official position of IR Iran is clear, keeping close relations with both the Turkish and Greek communities, and using these relations to contribute towards reaching a sustainable and mutually agreed solution towards peace and prosperity for all Cypriots in a unified Cyprus.
The nuclear agreement between Iran and 5+1 has set a precedent to believe that the impossible could be made possible through mutual determination and will.
Discovering new energy resources in Cyprus can definitely contribute to the prospective of hope and prosperity of this country more than ever.
The Islamic Republic of Iran, with great experiences in the field of exploration, drilling, and refining of oil and gas, and also training specialists in these fields can help Cyprus as a reliable partner. During the February visit of Minister Lakkotrypis to Tehran, good negotiations were held between the officials of both countries, and I do hope we will be able to start our cooperation in this field.