TEHRAN – The Iranian government is determined to “interact constructively” with the entire world, including the European Union, based on “common interests and mutual respect”, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Tehran on Sunday.
Ashton leads the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) in the nuclear talks with Iran.
“The government of prudence and hope is determined, in the area of foreign policy, to have constructive interaction with the entire world, based on common interests and mutual respect,” Rouhani said.
He added that in line with this policy, his government is “interested in establishing a new relationship with the European Union.”
Rouhani told Ashton that Iran believes her trip to Iran turns over a new page, and Iran is ready to revive its economic ties with European countries.
Commenting on the historic relations between Iran and European countries, he said they have many “common goals and interests” with which they can hold dialogue.
European countries have started sending political, economic, and parliamentary delegations to Iran, but “your visit (to Iran) as the representative of the foreign policy of 28 European countries has a greater political connotation,” Rouhani told Ashton.
In addition to the nuclear negotiations, Iran and the EU should hold talks on many other areas of cooperation, Rouhani stated.
In follow–up to the interim nuclear deal signed by Iran and the 5+1 group in Geneva last November, the two sides have started negotiations to hammer out a final nuclear deal in which all sanctions against Iran are lifted.
Rouhani said Iran and the EU, “by passing the current stage properly,” will enter a new situation in which they can discuss very important strategic issues, such as establishing a “strategic relationship” in the areas of energy trade and the transit of goods.
He went on to say that there are many issues in the world, and especially in the sensitive region of the Middle East, on which Iran and the EU can negotiate and cooperate, and “we hope that we can take new and serious steps” by using “the good atmosphere” that has been created in relations between Iran and the EU.
He also said Iran and the EU can cooperate in the campaigns against terrorism, extremism, and drug trafficking and can hold talks on how to help resolve the crises in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
‘Conveying goodwill message of 28 EU countries to Iran’
Ashton said she visited Iran to convey the “goodwill message” of the 28 members of the EU to President Rouhani.
She also said it is the first time that the two sides are holding talks on non-nuclear issues, and this is a “start for expansion of cooperation between Iran and the European Union.”
She stated that her trip to Iran shows that the 28-member EU bloc is ready to improve relations with Iran.
“My presence shows that the European Union is willing, concurrent with nuclear negotiations, to have better, more effective, and more dynamic relations with Iran,” Ashton said, according to a retranslation of her words.
Ashton also said the EU is well aware of the important role of Iran in the Middle East region.
Larijani says EU should take “sincere steps”
In her meeting with Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, Ashton said that the EU feels committed to resolving Iran’s nuclear dossier and many other regional issues.
She said that the purpose of her trip was to discuss the expansion of cooperation with Iran on important regional and international issues.
She stated that the Syrian crisis is currently a priority and humanitarian aid should be sent to the country, while highlighting the important role of Iran in this issue.
Larijani said Iran is ready to cooperate with the EU to resolve the Syria crisis.
Pointing to the negotiations between Iran and the West over Iran’s nuclear program before Rouhani assumed office as president, Larijani said the Western countries failed to fulfill their commitments toward Iran, and he insisted that it is now time for the EU and the 5+1 group to “take sincere actions on common purposes.”
Larijani, who formerly served as Iran’s main nuclear negotiator, held several rounds of talks with Ashton’s predecessor, Javier Solana, in the early years of the administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Ashton also held talks with the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Ali Shamkhani, the Supreme Leader’s foreign policy advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati, and former chief nuclear negotiator and former SNSC secretary Saeed Jalili on Sunday.
Ashton and Jalili held several rounds of nuclear talks in Baghdad, Moscow, Almaty, and other places in the final years of the Ahmadinejad administration.
Ashton, who arrived in Tehran on Saturday for an official visit, was accompanied by her deputy, Helga Schmidt, special aide Stephan Clement, and her spokesman, Michael Mann.
After meetings with senior officials in Tehran, Ashton and her entourage will visit the city of Isfahan on Monday.