Iran attaches special importance to its relations with Azerbaijan: ambassador
Iran will mark the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution on February 11. In the run up to this event, Trend News asked Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Mohammad Bagir Behrami to comment on the current situation in the country, bilateral relations with Azerbaijan, as well as other aspects of foreign policy.Trend News: How do you assess the current state and prospects of Azerbaijani-Iranian relations? What programs will the two countries realize in 2010?
Behrami: The Azerbaijani-Iranian relations are of strategic character. Iran attaches a crucial importance to the development of relations with Azerbaijan.
The Islamic Republic's role in the region, its good relations with neighboring countries, particularly with Azerbaijan, a common religion, the close similarity of cultures and languages of both countries (as you know, in some border regions of Iran people speak the Azerbaijani language) contribute to the fact that Iran attaches special importance to Azerbaijan.
Thank God, the countries established good relations in the past years, but Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's last year visit to Tehran opened a new page to the Azerbaijan-Iran cooperation in all areas, particularly, in the political, economic, cultural and security fields.
In 2010, the agreements signed by the Iranian and Azerbaijani presidents, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Aliyev, and the intergovernmental commissions of the two countries are to be executed. There are also new proposals, which will be implemented in the future.
Development of relations between Azerbaijani and Iranian officials and agencies also has great significance. Regarding the visits of both countries' officials, I can say that in 2009, about 30 Iranian senior officials, including the vice president, deputy ministers and MPs, paid a visit to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov's visit to Iran also was of great significance. Aliyev welcomed Iran's assistance for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Iran's purchase of Azerbaijani gas. Earlier, Iran and Azerbaijan have signed a contract on gas purchase. I hope that the volume of the Azerbaijani gas supply to Iran will increase to 2bln cubic meters.
Our countries have signed an agreement on gas purchase for three months. We hope the sides will sign another contract on purchase of 2bln cubic meters of gas during the current contract's implementation term of 100 days. Of course, we want to increase the gas volumes purchased from Azerbaijan to 5bln cubic meters. This requires creating a new pipeline, and the sides have negotiated on this issue.
The sport, culture and science delegation's Iran visit was one of the important events of 2009.
Unilateral elimination of visa regime with Azerbaijan was one of the important steps taken by Iran. This was suggested by the Iranian Embassy in Azerbaijan and was realized thanks to my long run. The country will abolish the visa regime Feb.1 in connection with the anniversary of the Islamic revolution's victory in Iran and the start of the “Decade of Fajr” celebrations.
Iran's Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani invited his Azerbaijani counterpart Ogtay Asadov to visit Iran. I am confident that this visit will take place before Feb.20. Moreover, Supreme Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili invited Azerbaijani Presidential Administration Head Ramiz Mehdiyev to visit the country. The date of this visit has not yet been determined because I must discuss it with Mehdiyev first.
Q: Are there any obstacles for the development of Iranian-Azerbaijani relations? What steps should be taken to enhance political dialogue between the two countries?
A: I do not see any obstacles for the development of relations between our countries. The programs initiated by Ahmadinejad and Aliyev will be implemented and it will be a boost for Iranian-Azerbaijani relations. The sides must continue bilateral visits, meetings and negotiations to enhance political dialogue.
Q: What assistance could Iran provide in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
A: Since the beginning of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Iran believes that the problem can be solved only by regional countries. Iran thinks that a country far from the region only pursues its own interests and perceives the conflict as a mean to realize its interests. Non-regional countries want to enhance their prestige in the region, as well as in the energy sector and when dealing with ethnic issues.
From this point of view, the conflicting parties should solve the problem through an independent decision. Iran has conditions for a positive influence on the discussions over the conflict for various reasons. First, the Iran Islamic Republic is the closest country to the conflict zone and it is aware of the conflict's causes. Moreover, the country worked on a just solution to the problem in the past. Since the early stage of the conflict, Iran has sought to remove obstacles preventing the conflicting parties to achieve a result that can suit both sides.
Any agreement reached in the region, directly or indirectly affects Iran. Therefore, Iran must join these discussions as an honest mediator. Iran has a very good potential to hold discussions between the conflicting parties. Azerbaijan may use Iran's potential to influence the positive resolution of the conflict. Iran pursues a strategic policy that supports Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and the country can rely on Iran for the resolution of regional problems.
Of course, Iran cannot remain indifferent to a conflict near its borders. Now, the region has become a place for non-regional countries to square their accounts.
Iran offers to view the realities of the problem and study the factors contributing to the prolongation of the conflict. Iran believes in honest mediation through protecting the countries' territorial integrity and mutual respect, and may take positive steps to discuss the conflict with the parties involved in it. Iran has always recognized Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and stressed the importance of this condition in any projects designed to address this problem. There are various projects, which include geo-political details for the resolution of this problem. In any case, Iran wants to resolve the conflict through discussions and mutual understanding, and considering conscience in the conflict resolution is a condition.
Q: What is Iran's current position towards the Caspian Sea? Is there any hope of reaching a consensus on the legal status of the Caspian Sea among the littoral states?
A: I think there is no dispute regarding the legal status of the Caspian Sea. The Caspian littoral countries are likely to reach agreement on this issue and their special representatives are working to this end. Baku hosted meetings of special representatives discussing the Caspian status two months ago. The meetings discussed the legal status of the Caspian Sea, and the sides have already agreed upon 70 percent of these issues.
The Caspian status question was one of the issues discussed during Mammadyarov's Tehran visit. The minister mulled the issue with Ahmadinejad and the president gave instructions for the rapid resolution of the agreed issues. I hope Caspian countries will resolve that question and celebrate a “mutual consent” in the near future.
Q: This year your country marks the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution. How much do you think the Islamic revolution' initial slogans (independence and freedom) have been carried out?
A: It is an undeniable fact that today Iran is the most independent country in the world from a political point of view. The country' constitution provides many freedoms.
Looking at the events that occurred in Iran after the presidential election you can understand that these indicate the existence of freedom in Iran. Iran always has and will have freedoms within the law. In my opinion, the country's activities over the past 30 years, made these slogans more diversified and strengthened them. People became stronger, particularly, the younger generation that fights for the sake of the country and its values. Iran has achieved a lot in many areas, such as industry, agriculture, space area and in the medical and defense technologies field, as well as in nuclear technology of peaceful orientation. The country achieved these thanks to its young scientists. I believe, in 2010, Iranians will celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution even more actively and proudly.
The Islamic revolution was a cultural revolution. Divine values, independence, freedom, justice and unwillingness to bow to the yoke were a feature of this revolution. I believe the peoples of the world have drawn many lessons and examples from this revolution.
The “Zionist regime's” armed forces are the fifth great army in the world, but Lebanon's religious fighter nation forced this army to bow by supporting Hezbollah. This indicates that some important factor contributes to their victory. If you look back at history, you see that the Arabs have repeatedly failed in their struggle with Israel. However, taking the example of the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Iranian people, Hezbollah forced one of the most powerful armies in the world to bow.
Today changes taking place in Latin America may also serve as an example. We are confident that the Western culture built on injustice, hegemony, double standards in human rights had come to its end. The people of the world have awakened and the Islamic revolution in Iran affected this especially.
Q: The U.S.-Iran relations have been interrupted for about 30 years. Is there any hope for the restoration of these relations?
A: Establishment of relations with the U.S. depends on them. The U.S. played a major role in the rupture of relations. The reason for this lies in the hegemony, arrogance and the U.S. officials' colonial policy. They had these features in the past, as well as now.
I believe if the U.S. government does not interfere in the affairs of others, respects people's rights, returns Iran's frozen investments in the U.S., and abundance its hegemonial and colonial policy, it would benefit itself and other countries.
American officials contributed to the cessation of the U.S.-Iran and we have a saying for this: “If Allah wants, even the enemy can make a good service.” We were able to develop to the current level and achieve prosperity of the country because of the termination of relations with the U.S. and the pressure from their side.
Q: Iran has been experiencing political clashes and foreign media has voiced different opinions about these events. What do you think of that?
A: The Islamic Republic of Iran has freedoms. Everyone may voice its opinion and the constitution provides such freedom to everyone. But the Iranian people do not want intervention by foreigners and countries pursuing colonial policies.
Since the beginning of the Islamic revolution in Iran, the people aimed to achieve freedom, independence and liberation from colonization, particularly, from the colonization of the U.S. Participation of “Zionists and Americans” in the events that took place after the presidential election, is obvious. The budgets approved in the U.S. Congress for “hostility” with the Islamic Republic of Iran, demonstrate their weakness and helplessness in achieving their goals. The Iranian people's rallies held to support the supreme leader and the regime, were a severe blow to all enemies.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is moving forward with its own pace. Iran's people live, they are informed and constantly develop. The people deserve this, and I hope Iran will reach the highest peaks in science, technology and policy, and will take an influential place in the global governance by implementing the 20-year development program.
(Source: Trend News)-