By Sadegh Fereydounabadi

Cutting hair, not relationship

February 28, 2023 - 22:18

TEHRAN – Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian held extensive meetings with foreign diplomats and officials during his stint in Geneva, where he took part in the 52nd session of the UN Human Rights Council. 

The meetings highlighted Iran’s dynamic relations with the world and the falsehood of propaganda surrounding Iran’s isolation that was promoted by western media in the wake of the Mahsa Amini protests. 

This was on full display in the meeting that Amir Abdollahian had with Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib, who just a few months ago snipped off a lock of her hair in an act of shenanigan that was portrayed as a support for Iran’s unrest.

Lahbib cut a strand of her hair in October last year together with two Belgian lawmaker as a sign of support for unrest in Iran. She said at the time that the Belgian government would urge the European Union to slap sanctions on Iran. 

But when Amir Abdollahian flew to Geneva, Lahbib was among the first to meet the Iranian foreign minister. She discussed with Amir Abdollahian bilateral political issues as well as some international developments and consular matters. In this meeting, the Iranian foreign minister spoke about the wrong assessment of some European sides regarding the recent riots in Iran, stressing that relations and bilateral issues should not be affected by such miscalculations. Regarding consular issues, the top Iranian diplomat stressed that within the framework of the previous agreement, Iran is ready to resolve the issue of prisoners of the two countries. Amir Abdollahian then explained the Islamic Republic of Iran’s principled policy and views about the Ukraine issue to his Belgian counterpart.

Lahbib said she was pleased to talk with Amir Abdollahian as part of different meetings between the two sides. Lahbib added that she thought that despite different views over some issues, Iran and Belgium need to keep their channel of dialogue open, according to the Iranian foreign ministry. She added that Brussels is willing to even move beyond the current stage. Lahbib stressed the need to continue bilateral negotiations about issues in question, adding that talks between the two countries should not be affected by the views of some lawmakers.

Lahbib’s conduct could well be repeated by other Western leaders who put much hope on Iran’s unrest. In this regard, French President Emmanuel Macron is worth watching. During the unrest, he went so far as to call the unrest a “revolution” and met with its self-proclaimed leaders. Pundits believe that Western leaders who bet on Iranian oppositionists will soon recognize that the best option is to work with the Islamic Republic, just as the Belgian foreign minister did. 

In Geneva, Amir Abdollahian started his meetings with the Finnish counterpart, Pekka Haavisto, on Monday morning.

During the meeting, the two sides discussed topics of mutual interest on bilateral relations, regional and international issues, the developments in Ukraine and especially the latest from the negotiations for the removal of anti-Iran sanctions.

Amir Abdollahian expressed pleasure over the good meetings of the past with his Finnish counterpart in New York and in Tehran and also their past phone calls, saying he welcomes continuation of such diplomatic consultations, according to the Iranian foreign ministry.

The Iranian foreign minister also touched on the good efforts by the Islamic Republic of Iran regarding the establishment of ceasefire in Ukraine, as proposed by the Iranian president and foreign minister, stressing that Tehran strongly opposes the expansion of NATO and continuation of war in Ukraine and is against any threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries.

Amir Abdollahian talked about the unreal controversy around the allegations of exports of Iranian drones to Russia for use in the Ukraine war and the contents of the talks between technical and expert teams of the two countries.

Amir Abdollahian also reiterated Iran’s support for an end to the war in Ukraine and a return to talks.

The Iranian foreign minister also talked about the recent visit by the deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency to Tehran and the good talks that were held, and said an agreement has been reached for Rafael Grossi to travel to Tehran in the near future.

He expressed hope that good progress is made on technical issues during the visit provided that political pressure is not placed on the agency.

The Iranian foreign minister also criticized the unconstructive approach and wrong calculations of a few European countries in relations to the recent riots in Iran and informed the Finnish side on the goodwill gesture of Iran regarding some European nationals involved in the recent riots in Iran.

The Iranian foreign minister also met with his Armenian counterpart Mirzoyan Ararat. In this meeting, in addition to various matters relating to bilateral relations, some other issues of regional and international significance were discussed. As for the developments in the South Caucasus, the top Iranian diplomat reaffirmed Iran's support for peace, stability and security in the region while also emphasizing its principled policy on the need for stability in international borders and Tehran’s rejection of geopolitical changes in the borders among regional countries. Amir Abdollahian added, “We have announced this policy openly and informed different sides as well."

Mirzoyan referred to the very good meetings and agreements between the high-ranking officials of the two countries and also the presence of the Armenian prime minister’s wife in the conference of influential women in Tehran. He further welcomed the trend of boot in bilateral ties in all fields. Mirzoyan also expressed pleasure with the opening of the consulate general of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Kapan, saying Armenia believes it is necessary to strengthen relations with Iran and welcomes such a trend.

The Iranian foreign minister also held talks with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. In the relatively detailed and constructive meeting, Amir Abdollahian and Guterres discussed various regional and international issues including Yemen, Ukraine, human rights issues, actions and developments related to strengthening the process of regional stability and convergence, and so on.

They further held talks over the latest developments concerning cooperation between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, in order to resolve technical differences. Other issues over which the Iranian foreign minister and the UN chief held discussions were the visit of the IAEA’s officials to Tehran, the ongoing diplomatic moves and measures regarding sanctions removal talks and the return of all parties to the Iran nuclear deal, JCPOA.

In Geneva, Amir Abdollahian also talked over the phone with his Tunisian counterpart Nabil Ammar and congratulated him on his appointment to the post. During their conversation, the two top diplomats discussed bilateral ties in different fields and stressed the need for expanding the relations.

Amir Abdollahian also held talks with his Indonesian counterpart as he continued meetings with other ministers and officials participating in the 52ndconference of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In this meeting, some issues of interest at the bilateral, regional and international levels were discussed. Amirabdollahian once again thanked the Indonesian foreign minister for congratulating him on the National Day of Iran. The Iranian foreign minister congratulated Indonesia on taking over the presidency of ASEAN for the year 2023. Amir Abdollahian pointed to the good bilateral ties and cooperation between Iran and Indonesia as well as the holding of the 10th round of political talks and the recent negotiations between the think tanks of the two nations. He underlined Iran’s readiness to continue the talks and cooperation without any limits.

Amir Abdollahian on Monday afternoon held talks with his Norwegian counterpart in Geneva. In this meeting, some issues of mutual interest at the bilateral, regional and international levels were discussed. The Iranian foreign minister appreciated political consultations between the two countries and welcomed the Norwegian side’s willingness to continue the talks. The Iranian foreign minister also criticized the unconstructive position and miscalculations of a specific number of European countries regarding the recent riots in Iran as well as the wrong stance of the Norwegian parliament speaker. He said, “We believe that dialogue can resolve misunderstandings." Amir Abdollahian, in other comments, outlined Iran’s views about the Ukraine crisis, saying, “While we oppose efforts to expand NATO, we are also against the war in Ukraine and support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries."

At the end of a busy day of diplomatic work, on Monday evening, Amir Abdollahian met with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk at the organization’s European headquarters in Geneva.

In this meeting, issues of mutual concern regarding human rights were discussed. The Iranian foreign minister outlined the Islamic Republic of Iran’s principled position on the issue of human rights and responded to some concerns raised by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Amir Abdollahian spoke about some violations of the Iranian people’s human rights by the US through imposition of oppressive and inhumane sanctions. The two sides underlined the need for the continuation of talks, exchange of views and cooperation regarding human rights.

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