TEHRAN – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said that Tehran plans to give priority to Africa in its foreign policy.
Zarif made the remarks during a ceremony held in Tehran at the Institute for Political and International Studies on Saturday night to commemorate African Day, which is an annual celebration of the anniversary of the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on May 25, 1963.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian, a number of Iranian MPs, including Majlis Economic Committee Chairman Gholamreza Mesbahi Moqaddam, Ugandan Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Kahinda Otafiire, Minister of Transport of Cote d’Ivoire Gaoussou Toure, and a number of foreign ambassadors based in Tehran attended the ceremony.
“We will make sure that Africa gains its prominence in the Iranian foreign policy, the prominence that it deserves,” Zarif said in his speech during the ceremony.
Following is the text of the foreign minister’s remarks:
Let me first of all begin by expressing my sincere congratulations to everybody because Africa is the mother of the earth. African Day is the day for all of us. The day of the establishment of the Organization of African Unity, which is now followed by a very proud African Union which represents the whole of Africa. A continent with immense capabilities with huge human potential and with a bright record, a record that provides all of us with lessons for resistance, for struggle against tyranny, oppression, colonialism, racism, and apartheid. But even more so lessons for forgiveness for compassion for living together for coexistence.
Let me take this opportunity to remember all African leaders from Kwame Nkrumah to Nelson Mandela and all others who have shown us how to fight against oppression and at the same time how to be able to forgive.
Distinguished friends, Excellencies, let me thank the dean for his important remarks on how Iran and Africa can work together. Let me thank all the ambassadors who by their attendance showed their commitment to working with Iran and to working together in order to move forward.
Let me welcome and thank the distinguished minister of justice of Uganda and the minister of transport of Cote D’Ivoire for their presence here and let me welcome particularly the distinguished members of parliament here among us.
We need to understand if you want to make a reality of our aspiration to work together, because I can assure you all my Iranian friends who are here know this, but I need to assure our African friends that Iran is seriously committed to working with Africa, but that commitment must be founded on the sober realization of the fact that working together is not only possible but absolutely necessary as we entered a new era when all of us can make a difference, when every state, big or small, can play a leading role in international relations and can make change can effect change and together we can make that happen.
For a very long time for the past fifty years since the beginning of the era known in the United Nations as the era of decolonization, we have increased our numbers we have increased our presence, but not our influence because we never believed that there is serious commonality of interests between us and unless we come to realize that in spite of everything that may divide us, in spite of all the different elements, all the different interests that may divide us there are bonds of future of all important contribution in making change that can put us together.
Now economic opportunities in Africa are immense and I appreciate the fact that the dean made it known to all of us that African embassies here in Tehran are there to provide us with information about those opportunities. Capabilities of Africa are immense, so we need to explore it but at the same time we need to come to the realization that we face common challenges, very serious challenges we are all disgusted by what is happening in the abductions in Nigeria. No one can accept abduction of innocent girls in the name of any religion let alone a religion that is founded on compassion on empathy, a religion whose prophet we recognize as the prophet of compassion.
Nothing could be further alien from the Islamic thought and from the Islamic tradition than the crimes that are perpetrated in the name of Islam. So all of us face that common challenge that common challenge is killing innocent people in the streets of Syria, in the streets of Iraq, in the streets of China, everywhere, in Afghanistan in Pakistan. All of us face that challenge and that is why these common challenges as well as the common opportunities that we all have should bring us together in order to work together for a better future not only for ourselves but for our children and a future that is beneficial to everybody.
We are not talking about unity against somebody. We are talking about unity for the entire humanity, Africa, and the rest of the developing world.
Now Iran has the honor of chairing the Non-Aligned Movement and as the chair of the non-aligned, where Africa plays the most significant role, I can say that cooperation on the Non-Aligned Movement and cooperation between Iran and Africa as people who have stood together, Iran has stood with you particularly after the Revolution against apartheid against all the vestiges of colonialism in Africa and we will continue to do that for the betterment of all of us not just for Iran and Africa but for the entire humanity.
Let me take this opportunity once again to express my personal commitment as an old Africanist - when I was doing my bachelor’s I specialized in Africa so I am interested and I am committed to Africa and the foreign ministry is committed to Africa and the entire country is committed to Africa. We are proud of Africa and we want to work with Africa in order to move this process ahead.
Let me commit ourselves again that this government wants to increase its relations with Africa both in economic terms as well as in political, social, and cultural terms and in scientific fields. We are going to enhance our exchanges at the cultural level, at the economic level, at the political level, at the scientific level and educational cooperation we already have with Africa in all these fields but I can assure you that during this government as the minister of trade has promised you Mr. dean we will increase that and we will make sure that Africa gains its prominence in the Iranian foreign policy, the prominence that it deserves.
Once again thank you all for attending this program and I am very glad that the interest that we see among the Iranian community both the private sector as well as public sector and the educational sector is an indication of the commitment that we all have for Africa, long live Africa.
Ugandan ambassador says Iran, Africa should build on their excellent political relations:
Ugandan Ambassador to Tehran Muhammad Ahmed Kissule, who is the dean of African ambassadors, made the opening speech, in which he said that Iran and Africa should build on their excellent political relations to boost their economic ties.
Following are excerpts of Ambassador Kissule’s remarks:
Allow me on behalf of all African ambassadors accredited to the Islamic Republic of Iran, to extend to you our sincere thanks for accepting our invitation and for honoring us with your presence at this occasion.
African Union is a replacement of OAU (Organization of African Unity) an organization that was established on May 25, 1963. At that time, it major objectives included among others the following:
a) Liberation of Africa and then the removal of the remains and effects of colonization.
b) Promotion of unity and solidarity among African states.
c) Coordination and intensification cooperation for the development of Africa.
d) Safeguarding the sovereignty of African States.
e) Promotion of international cooperation within the framework of the United Nations.
After registering significant progress by the organization of African Unity (OAU), on September 9, 1999, heads of state and government of African countries meeting in Libya, made a historical declaration known as the Sirte Declaration which called for the establishment of African Union with a view to include the following major objectives among others:
a) To accelerate the process of integration and achieve greater unity and to defend the sovereignty of the continent.
b) To place Africa in position that will enable it to play its legitimate role in the global economy and address its social, economic, and political problems inherited from the colonial masters.
c) To encourage international cooperation within the framework of the UN.
d) To promote peace, security, and stability.
e) To coordinate and harmonize policies between the existing and future regional Economic communities.
The vision of African Union is, “to have an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizen and representing dynamic force in global arena.”
Today, we are here in Tehran celebrating African day, but the famous questions that come to the minds of everybody is that;
How far have we gone in benefiting from our relations? What role can African governments and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran play in realizing benefits from these relations in line with the vision of the African Union?
What role can the private sector of both Iran and Africa play in strengthening the relations?
African ambassadors have observed that; Iranian significant achievements and experience in various fields such as industries, energy, education, health, mines, infrastructure, science and technology, if properly put at use by African countries on mutual benefits and mutual respect can serve as a major factor to improve the economic ties between Iran and Africa.
In that line, and since the world shifted from political diplomacy to commercial diplomacy, there is a dire need to facilitate the private sector of both Iran and Africa to play a role of linking people to people on mutual basis.
We are glad to inform everybody who is here today and particularly the private sector that African ambassadors working together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have reached an understanding that African ambassadors must have regular meetings with Iranian ministers and heads of institutions related to working with Africa with a purpose of joint planning, evaluation and consequently to get tangible results from our relations.
I have no doubt that everybody will agree with me that it if the excellent political relations that do exist between Africa and Iran are backed up by economic ties Iran Africa relations will flourish.
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