While five major global media outlets have been waiting a long time for a positive response for an interview with the Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, he decided to give an interview to Večernji list. In an exclusive conversation, the Iranian Foreign Minister spoke candidly about the obstacles preventing the signing of the nuclear deal with the world powers and answered questions about whether Russia, as the Americans claim, is blocking the signing of the agreement. We also discussed the war in Ukraine, and for the first time he made clear Iran's position on the war, revealing that three European countries have already contacted Iran and are interested in Iranian gas and oil. The Middle East was also an unavoidable topic. Among other things, Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian criticised INA for abandoning the Moghan project and withdrawing from the research project on the oil bloc in Iran, for the period during which international restrictive measures against Iran will be in place. With Iran having great influence over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Minister Amir-Abdollahian said Iran is ready to help Croatia and INA regain its oil fields in Syria, if requested.
Back in March, you stated that reaching a deal to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement, which Tehran signed with world powers was “closer than ever”. However, now everything has suspended and we are back to square one again. What is really going on and why is the signing of this nuclear deal being continuously procrastinated?
At the Vienna Negotiations on the lifting of sanctions, in the last round of negotiations in March, we came closer to an agreement than at any other time. Nevertheless, the American side did not react realistically and raised some new questions. After months of negotiations in Vienna with three European countries, Russia and China, and very long and detailed expert talks, colleagues achieved good results, defining which natural or legal persons should have sanctions lifted. The American side suddenly came up with a new excuse, saying that text should be added stating that those removed from the sanctions list as a result of these negotiations can again be placed on the U.S. sanctions list for reasons other than nuclear ones. We asked the Americans through the European Union and some intermediaries who exchanged messages on both sides, if they wanted to reach an agreement or procrastinate the agreement. Some issues, both in terms of lifting sanctions and economic guarantees, have led us to enter a new phase of European Union-mediated negotiations between Iran and the United States, which is still ongoing.
VIDEO 'We are ready to help Croatia regain oil fields in Syria'
You say the Americans are to blame for the lack of agreement, why don't you sign that treaty with the EU member states?
We have now reached the point of the Vienna negotiations in which we are striving to lift unilateral sanctions of the Americans, in which some issues must be resolved between us and them. Because the issue on the table is the lifting of unilateral U.S. sanctions on Iran. We are currently not dealing with legal sanctions by the European Union, although in practice, despite the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Europe has not distanced itself from unilateral US sanctions in recent years and is headed in the same direction. Our experience in the agreemen shows that neither the Americans nor the Europeans, and I mean the British, the French and the Germans, will meet their obligations. Since 2015, the European conduct has proven this. This certainly does not mean that in the current negotiations the views of the United States and Europe are the same. The role of Mr Borrell, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Mr Mora, the chief negotiator in Vienna, is constructive, trying to move closer to a deal.
How true is it that Russia is behind the non-signing of the agreement and is currently not comfortable with the lifting of sanctions on Iran and the return of Iran to the world oil market?
At the same time, three European countries and a representative of the European Union received a request from us. They pointed out the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine following the Russian military invasion and the possibility of its expansion. The Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov gave an interview that reportedly caused concern in the West. In exchange for the lifting of sanctions on Iran, Russia can file a motion on the Ukraine issue and make a request from the West. At that point Russia, of course, also made a request. Russia's demand was that if Iran wants to ratify the agreement in the final stage, as well as if all parties want to return to their obligations under the agreement, it must be done so that Russia also benefits from it, as the party that has taken constructive steps to return all the parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Western countries have told us that the Russians have no motive to revive the Treaty and the deal. I spoke to Lavrov by phone and several days later we spoke in Moscow. It has been clarified that if we make a deal with the American side, Russia will not create obstacles. In our conversation with Mr. Lavrov, we agreed to announce this position at a joint press conference. So far, in every contact I have had with Lavrov, the Russian side has pointed out that if we reach an agreement, Russia will support it. Of course, the West has relieved Russia of sanctions in part of its commitments related to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the interaction with Iran.
If sanctions on Iran are lifted, can Iran replace Russian oil and gas to EU countries?
Iran is one of the most important countries in the region with large energy reserves, both in oil and gas fields. We do not want to replace any country in the field of energy, but we certainly welcome the activation of our energy capacities for greater exports and economic interaction and co-operation with all the countries of the world. European countries have made oral requests to us and are considering how they can co-operate with the Islamic Republic of Iran in the field of energy. Our approach to economic co-operation will not be against any country and we welcome the expansion of co-operation with Europe and the other parts of the world in the field of energy.
What is Iran's position on the war in Ukraine, given that your stance is vague and unclear?
We believe that the root of this war is NATO's attempt to expand to the East, from which provocations against Russia have arisen. But we do not consider the war as a solution and we believe that the crisis in Ukraine needs to be resolved through political negotiations. I have spoken to the Ukrainian Foreign Minister at least three times in recent months. Given the good relations between Tehran and Moscow, the Foreign Minister of Ukraine suggested to me o
two occasions that I need to ask the Moscow authorities to establish a ceasefire and start political negotiations. I raised the issue right away. Mr Lavrov welcomed the political talks. But unfortunately, the parties accuse each other of not taking serious action and agreements at the negotiating table. We are continuing our efforts to stop the war and bring all the sides back into the negotiations, keeping in mind the sadness of the Ukrainian refugees, the war and the victims in that country. Just as we condemn the displacement of the peoples of Afghanistan and other countries, we also condemn the displacement of the people of Ukraine. The war is not the answer in Ukraine or Afghanistan, Yemen or anywhere else.
Why does Iran consider the decisions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) politicized and claims that whenever tensions between the U.S. and Iran increase, the IAEA makes decisions that harm Iran?
Please note that Iran is the only party adhering to its commitments in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action since 2015. We are still fulfilling many of our obligations under this agreement. But the opposing parties have failed to meet any of their main obligations. The United States have withdrawn from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, contrary to the agreement and UN Security Council Resolution 2231.
Your negotiations with Saudi Arabia are currently underway. Do you believe that there will be a positive outcome and normalisation of relations between these two regional powers?
About two months ago, we held the fifth round of negotiations in Baghdad. The two delegations, the Iranian and the Saudi, held constructive talks. No major progress was made in the first and second phases of the talks, as the atmosphere of bilateral talks was influenced by the situation in Yemen. As you know, on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan, in co-operation with the United Nations and the initiative of the Secretary-General and his representative, we welcomed the establishment of a two-month temporary ceasefire in Yemen. Iran supported and tried to extend the ceasefire. We are certainly seriously interested in completely lifting the humanitarian siege and bringing all the Yemeni sides back to the negotiating table. Consequently, the Islamic Republic of Iran, in the fifth round of negotiations and ahead of the new atmosphere of the ceasefire in Yemen, had the necessary interaction with the United Nations in the development and stabilisation of the ceasefire. Both for various reasons, regional and international, and because of the necessity of bilateral relations, we have tried to use our spiritual closeness to various Yemeni sides so that the ceasefire can be established and maintained. Progress has been made in the fifth round of Iranian-Saudi negotiations in Baghdad, albeit a small one. There was consensus in Baghdad on several issues, two or three of which have been implemented so far. Including the issue of sending Iranian pilgrims to the Hajj, and the issue of the deployment of our diplomats to Jeddah. Concerning our remaining arrangements, in addition to the exchange of technical staff in the embassies, preparations are underway. I hope the other deals will come true. We welcome the normalisation of Saudi-Iranian diplomatic relations and the opening of embassies.
Analysts fear a possible outbreak of war between Iran and Israel that could ignite almost the entire Middle East, how justified is their fear?
The Israelis are not interlocutors for a conversation between equals about war with us. Israel is faced with a very big question of its identity and survival. It is facing multi-layered internal crises. This dramatic behaviour of the fake Israeli regime or the conversation about normalising relations with some countries is not a sign of strength, but a sign of weakness of the Zionist regime.
Are you satisfied with the political, economic and cultural co-operation between Croatia and Iran?
There are good and friendly relations between Iran and Croatia. Yesterday I met with the head of the Interparliamentary Friendship Group Croatia- Iran, Mr Zlatko Hasanbegović and his colleagues Ivan Ćelić and Erik Fabijanić. Political and parliamentary relations between the two countries are good and growing. Our economic relations, despite the existence of significant capacities in the two countries, for various reasons have not seen a significant and expected growth. We do not yet see progress in the trade sector in terms of good political relations between the two countries. Both countries need to develop economic co-operation and we must plan for that and be serious about it. We have no restrictions on the development of relations with Croatia and we welcome the expansion of co-operation in all the areas of economy, politics, culture and tourism. We also think there's a lot of undiscovered potential for cooperation between the two sides.
Iran has a strong influence on the Syrian President Al-Assad. Is Iran ready to help the Croatian government to regain INA's oil fields in Syria that were abandoned because of the war?
We will certainly not withhold any assistance in developing and deepening Croatia's relations with Iran, as well as with our friendly countries in the region, including Syria, either in the field of energy or in other areas. We welcome any co-operation with the friendly country of Croatia, but I criticise INA's very hasty performance in leaving the Moghan project in Iran. For information to dear people in Croatia, as well as to those who hear me in the Balkans, I say that the world is - the world of interest. There was a time when Bush Jr. led a military operation against our neighbour Afghanistan and occupied it. Then Bush, in an offensive act, called Iran the axis of evil. While supposedly trying to maintain a role in countering Iran and preventing other countries from co-operating with Iranian oil industry, at the same time the Bush family and the families of many American officials they all know, cartel owners or shareholders, want to participate in Iranian oil, gas and petrochemical industries through intermediary companies. They are only pursuing their own interests and distracting others from their interests. They are only trying to pursue their interests in other countries, officially or unofficially. Consequently, I believe that Croatia should think only of its national interests, far from third-party interference. We welcome any action that serves the common interests of Croatia and Iran, both in the field of energy and in other areas.
Can I interpret your answer as Iran's willingness to help Croatia regain the oil fields in Syria?
We are following this topic with a positive opinion.
Does Iran still want revenge on the United States for the assassination of the General Qasem Soleimani?
That item is still open.