By Mehdi Sepahvand

ASEAN Day: Zarif calls on neighbors to ‘emulate successful experience’

September 18, 2019 - 23:51

TEHRAN – Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has called on neighboring countries to put aside their differences and form a coalition like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Speaking on ASEAN Day in a Wednesday ceremony in Tehran celebrating the 52th anniversary of the association’s formation with ambassadors of the member states and the ASEAN organization, the Iranian minister said Tehran calls on its neighbors to start working together instead of working against each other.

Zarif started his address to the meeting by praising the ASEAN member countries as for their initiative to form the bloc, saying the ASEAN members are “people who can think for themselves, who can plan for themselves, who can think ahead and think progressively for a better future, not only for their own citizens, but for the citizens of the globe at large.”

“We in Iran have a lot of respect for the countries in the ASEAN group. We respect your accomplishments. We respect your self-respect. If you want others to respect you, you need to respect yourselves. And ASEAN is an example of self-respect. And we want to have greater cooperation with the ASEAN. That is why it was an honor for me to go to Singapore and to announce the finalization of the process of Iran’s accession to the treaty on amity and cooperation. It is always a good sign that we get closer to our ASEAN friends.”

“ASEAN, now celebrating its 52nd anniversary, is a valuable lesson of coming together, of joining our forces, of synergizing in order to advance together,” he underlined.

“ASEAN has provided a good example to the rest of us that we could be doing better, both individually and collectively, once we come together and work together instead of working against each other.”

“Particularly for us in this region, where some of us have tried to purchase security from outside, some of us have tried to put their reliance on outsiders, it is important to show that that looking inward, working with your own people, with your own neighbors is always a much better success story.”

“I want to stress that the view of the Islamic Republic of Iran is cooperation and positive engagement. We continue to believe that through cooperation and constructive engagement we can build a better world. My presence here today is a tribute to the accomplishment of our friends in the ASEAN community,” Zarif stated.

Zarif, ASEAN ambassadors pose for group photo at ceremony on ASEAN Day in Tehran, September 18, 2019 (Photo: Mehdi Sepahvand, Tehran Times)
Zarif, ASEAN ambassadors pose for group photo at ceremony on ASEAN Day in Tehran, September 18, 2019 (Photo: Mehdi Sepahvand, Tehran Times)

“And at the same time I want to ask our friends, our neighbors in this region that there is nothing that prevents us from doing the same; nothing that prevents us from establishing cooperation among ourselves. Nothing prevents us from joining together rather than working against each other. Others will never protect us. Others will never provide us security. Others will never provide us well-being. We need to have self-respect. If we want others to respect us, we need to start respecting ourselves.”

“We cannot be considered as milking cows. Milking cows are never respected,” Zarif said, in apparent reference to Saudi Arabia, which U.S. President Donald Trump once called milking cow for their wealth.

According to some reports, during his presidential campaign, candidate Trump chose to describe the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a “milk cow” that will be led to slaughter when its milk runs out. 

Zarif reiterated his call for regional cooperation by saying, “We need to be partners with each other in order to be respected as global partners. And this is our call. This is the Islamic Republic of Iran’s call to all its neighbors - all its neighbors: Let’s come together! Let’s put aside differences! All communities that have come together have had differences, from Europe to ASEAN. It’s not that countries that come together have no differences. Differences are a fact of life. But we come together because we should believe that what binds us together is commonalities; commonalities are much greater than our differences; that the interests of our nations, the interests of our people are always better served through cooperation and through engagement. So while we salute our friends, our brothers and sisters in the ASEAN, we call on our neighbors to emulate this very successful experiment.”


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