United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Iran Defeated the US: In Wrestling

            Iran defeated its two major rivals, Russia and the United States, at the 2014 Freestyle Wrestling World Cup in Los Angeles. On March 15, Iran defeated the host team 5-3 after beating Armenia 8-0 and Turkey 7-1. Iran went on to beat Russia 6-2 on March 16, taking the cup for the third time in a row.  “We were able to execute our plan,” Iran’s technical manager Ali Reza Razaie told TeamUSA.org. “For each of our matches we had a plan. Ninety percent of our plan came through today.”

 
            Only three U.S. athletes beat their Iranian counterparts. “I think we’re in a place now where that would give us some confidence,” U.S. coach Zeke Jones said after loss. “I think the next time we wrestle we will believe that we can beat them [the Iranians]. But we’re not going to do it if we don’t do the little things. We got to do the little things, fight for the center of the mat, control the tie-up, take charge of the whistle. Those are the things we talk about. They beat us to the punch on those things.”
 
 
            Both President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei congratulated the team. “The victory of Iran’s national freestyle wrestling team… proves the athletic traits of the zealous and diligent Iranian youth in the international arena,” Rouhani wrote in a message.
 
            The crowd in Los Angeles was split between Iran and U.S. fans. But Iran’s supporters also chanted “USA, USA” during the third-place match between the United States and Ukraine, according to TeamUSA.org. “I think that the fact that we were able to host the World Cup here and Iranian team is here again in such an important city like Los Angeles, I think it's a true testament to our relationship with the Iranian [wrestling] federation, and the fact that wrestling is popular all over the world,” said USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender.
 
      The Iranian and the U.S. wrestling federations have “positive and strong relationship built on years of competition,” Bender told The Iran Primer in 2013. U.S. participation in Iran’s 1998 Takhti Cup marked the first visit by an American sports team since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The team has competed in Iran ten other times since then. And Iran’s national team has competed in the United States more than 10 times since 1996.
 
      The two federations actually teamed up to salvage wrestling for the 2020 Olympics after the Olympic Committee recommended dropping the sport in February 2013. The Iranian and American teams were scheduled to hold two friendly matches ― in New York on May 15 and in Los Angeles on May 19 ― to raise the sport’s profile before the committee makes a final decision in September. The Iranians beat the Americans 6 to 1 in New York.
 
Click here for more information on the U.S.-Iran wrestling relationship.
 

Congress Warns Iran in Letters to Obama

      On March 18, 83 U.S. Senators and nearly 400 House members sent letters to President Barack Obama warning that they would swiftly impose new sanctions if nuclear talks between Iran and the world’s six major powers fail. The Senate letter —spearheaded by Senators Menendez (D-NJ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)— argued that “Iran has no inherent right to enrichment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty” but did not explicitly require Tehran to stop enriching uranium. Eight of the 17 senators who did not sign the letter were Democratic committee chairmen who urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to hold off on voting on new Iran sanctions in December.

            House Majority Leader Eric Cantor R-VA) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer penned their letter, which was signed by 178 Democrats and 216 Republicans. “We urge you to consult closely with us so that we can determine the parameters of such relief in the event an agreement is reached, or, if no agreement is reached or Iran violates the interim agreement, so that we can act swiftly to consider additional sanctions and steps necessary to change Iran’s calculation,” urged the House members. “By standing together in a bipartisan manner, this letter shows that House Members are united and will not stand for a nuclear armed Iran now or in the future, or allow Iran to skirt its responsibility under the Joint Plan of Action,” Hoyer said in a statement.
        
           A group of 23 senators, led by Carl Levin (D-MI), sent a separate letter to Obama on March 22. “We are hopeful a permanent diplomatic agreement will require dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear weapons-related infrastructure, including enrichment-, heavy water-, and reprocessing-related facilities,” wrote the senators. The following is the full text of the three letters.
 
Menendez Letter
Dear Mr. President:
 
We all hope that nuclear negotiations succeed in preventing Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapons capability.  For diplomacy to succeed, however, we must couple our willingness to negotiate with a united and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime.
 
We believe, as you do, that the pressure from economic sanctions brought Iran to the table, and that it must continue until Iran abandons its efforts to build a nuclear weapon.  We also agree pressure will intensify if Iran violates the interim agreement, uses the talks simply as a delaying tactic, or walks away from the table. 
 
For twenty years, Congress has consistently focused attention on the threat of the Iranian program and taken the lead in initiating sanctions.  Congress has repeatedly stated that preventing an Iranian nuclear capability is a key goal of U.S. foreign policy.  Nine separate pieces of sanctions legislation have passed Congress since 1996.  We appreciate your continued commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and your efforts to implement the sanctions, which isolated and pressured the regime into negotiations.
 
We believe that Congress has a continuing role to play to improve the prospects for success in the talks with Iran.  As these negotiations proceed, we will outline our views about the essential goals of a final agreement with Iran, continue oversight of the interim agreement and the existing sanctions regime, and signal the consequences that will follow if Iran rejects an agreement that brings to an end its nuclear weapons ambitions.
 
We write now to express our support for the following core principles we believe are consistent with your administration’s positions, and urge you to insist on their realization in a final agreement with Iran:
 
  • We believe that Iran has no inherent right to enrichment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
  •  
  • We believe any agreement must dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program and prevent it from ever having a uranium or plutonium path to a nuclear bomb. 
  •  
  • We believe Iran has no reason to have an enrichment facility like Fordow, that the regime must give up its heavy water reactor at Arak, and that it must fully explain the questionable activities in which it engaged at Parchin and other facilities. 
  • We believe Iran must fully resolve concerns addressed in United Nations Security Council resolutions, including any military dimensions of its nuclear program.
  •  
  • We believe Iran must also submit to a long-term and intrusive inspection and verification regime to achieve the goal described in the Joint Plan of Action of “reaffirm[ing] that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.”
  •  
  • Finally, we believe Iran must not be allowed during these negotiations to circumvent sanctions.  We view this period as one fraught with the danger of companies and countries looking to improve their commercial position in Tehran, especially given recent reports of rising purchases of Iranian oil.  Iran cannot be allowed to be open for business. As you have stated, we must come down on those who are undermining sanctions “like a ton of bricks.” 
  •  
As you have said, Congress has always been a partner in presidential efforts to impose economic sanctions on Iran.  Should an acceptable final agreement be reached, your administration will need to work together with Congress to enact implementing legislation to provide longer term sanctions relief beyond existing waiver authorities – either through suspension, repeal or amendment of statutory sanctions.  Should negotiations fail or Iran violate the Joint Plan of Action, Congress will need to ensure that the legislative authority exists to rapidly and dramatically expand sanctions.  We need to work together now to prepare for either eventuality.
 
Most importantly, Iran must clearly understand the consequences of failing to reach an acceptable final agreement.  We must signal unequivocally to Iran that rejecting negotiations and continuing its nuclear weapon program will lead to much more dramatic sanctions, including further limitations on Iran’s exports of crude oil and petroleum products. 
Mr. President, the negotiations with Iran are likely to be arduous. We look forward to working with you on a bipartisan basis to protect America and our allies by preventing Iran from ever developing or building nuclear weapons.
 
Click here for a full list of signatories.
 
House Letter
 
Dear Mr. President:
 
As your partner in developing the broad-based sanctions that – in bringing Iran to the negotiating table – have played an essential role in your two-track approach to encourage Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program, we support your diplomatic effort to test Iran’s willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions and satisfactorily resolve all critical issues concerning its nuclear program.
 
Iran’s history of delay, deception, and dissembling on its nuclear program raises serious concerns that Iran will use prolonged negotiations as a tool to secure an economic lifeline while it continues to make progress towards a nuclear weapon. Iran’s leaders must understand that further sanctions relief will require Tehran to abandon its pursuit of a nuclear weapon and fully disclose its nuclear activities.

We are hopeful a permanent diplomatic agreement will require dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear weapons-related infrastructure, including enrichment-, heavy water-, and reprocessing-related facilities, such that Iran will not be able to develop, build, or acquire a nuclear weapon. We do not seek to deny Iran a peaceful nuclear energy program, but we are gravely concerned that Iran's industrial-scale uranium enrichment capability and heavy water reactor being built at Arak could be used for the development of nuclear weapons.
 
Because we believe any agreement should include stringent transparency measures to guarantee that Iran cannot develop an undetectable nuclear weapons breakout capability, Tehran must fully and verifiably implement its Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, ratify and implement the Additional Protocol, answer pending IAEA questions, and comply with the transparency measures requested by the Director General of the IAEA, as well as with any additional verification and monitoring measures necessary to ensure Iran is abiding by the terms of any agreement. Such measures should include an agreement granting the IAEA necessary access to inspect all suspect sites, including military facilities, and providing an unfettered ability to interview Iranian scientists and personnel associated with Iran’s nuclear program.

As negotiations progress, we expect your administration will continue to keep Congress regularly apprised of the details. And, because any long-term sanctions relief will require Congressional action, we urge you to consult closely with us so that we can determine the parameters of such relief in the event an agreement is reached, or, if no agreement is reached or Iran violates the interim agreement, so that we can act swiftly to consider additional sanctions and steps necessary to change Iran’s calculation.

Finally, although the P5+1 process is focused on Iran’s nuclear program, we remain deeply concerned by Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, its horrendous human rights record, its efforts to destabilize its neighbors, its pursuit of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and its threats against our ally, Israel, as well as the fates of American citizens detained by Iran. We want to work with you to address these concerns as part of a broader strategy of dealing with Iran.

We are hopeful your two-track strategy will convince Iran to change course and abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons. None of us desires military conflict, but as you yourself have acknowledged, we must keep all options on the table to prevent this dangerous regime from acquiring nuclear weapons.
 
Click here for a full list of signatories.
 
Levin Letter
 
Dear Mr. President:
 
As your partner in developing the broad-based sanctions that – in bringing Iran to the negotiating table – have played an essential role in your two-track approach to encourage Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program, we support your diplomatic effort to test Iran’s willingness to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions and satisfactorily resolve all critical issues concerning its nuclear program. 
 
Iran’s history of delay, deception, and dissembling on its nuclear program raises serious concerns that Iran will use prolonged negotiations as a tool to secure an economic lifeline while it continues to make progress towards a nuclear weapon.  Iran’s leaders must understand that further sanctions relief will require Tehran to abandon its pursuit of a nuclear weapon and fully disclose its nuclear activities. 
 
We are hopeful a permanent diplomatic agreement will require dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear weapons-related infrastructure, including enrichment-, heavy water-, and reprocessing-related facilities, such that Iran will not be able to develop, build, or acquire a nuclear weapon.  We do not seek to deny Iran a peaceful nuclear energy program, but we are gravely concerned that Iran's industrial-scale uranium enrichment capability and heavy water reactor being built at Arak could be used for the development of nuclear weapons. 
 
Because we believe any agreement should include stringent transparency measures to guarantee that Iran cannot develop an undetectable nuclear weapons breakout capability, Tehran must fully and verifiably implement its Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, ratify and implement the Additional Protocol, answer pending IAEA questions, and comply with the transparency measures requested by the Director General of the IAEA, as well as with any additional verification and monitoring measures necessary to ensure Iran is abiding by the terms of any agreement.  Such measures should include an agreement granting the IAEA necessary access to inspect all suspect sites, including military facilities, and providing an unfettered ability to interview Iranian scientists and personnel associated with Iran’s nuclear program. 
 
As negotiations progress, we expect your administration will continue to keep Congress regularly apprised of the details.  And, because any long-term sanctions relief will require Congressional action, we urge you to consult closely with us so that we can determine the parameters of such relief in the event an agreement is reached, or, if no agreement is reached or Iran violates the interim agreement, so that we can act swiftly to consider additional sanctions and steps necessary to change Iran’s calculation. 
 
Finally, although the P5+1 process is focused on Iran’s nuclear program, we remain deeply concerned by Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism, its horrendous human rights record, its efforts to destabilize its neighbors, its pursuit of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and its threats against our ally, Israel, as well as the fates of American citizens detained by Iran.  We want to work with you to address these concerns as part of a broader strategy of dealing with Iran. 
 
We are hopeful your two-track strategy will convince Iran to change course and abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons.  None of us desires military conflict, but as you yourself have acknowledged, we must keep all options on the table to prevent this dangerous regime from acquiring nuclear weapons.
 
Click here for a list of signatories.

Rouhani in Oman to Boost Trade, Gulf Ties

             On March 12, President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Oman for his first official visit to an Arab country since his August inauguration. The primary aim of the two-day trip was to expand economic ties between the two countries and ease tensions with other Gulf states. “Iran extends a hand of friendship and brotherhood to all regional countries, particularly its neighbors in the southern part of the Persian Gulf,” Rouhani told Iranian and Omani businessman in Muscat on March 13. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh and several other high ranking officials accompanied the president.

      During Rouhani’s visit, Iran signed an agreement to export $10 billion cubic meters of gas per year to Oman and eventually build a $1 billion pipeline across the Gulf. In August, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding for Iran to sell gas to Oman for 25 years starting in 2015— a deal valued at $60 billion.
 
 
 
            President Rouhani told Sultan Qaboos bin Said (right) that the exemplary ties between their two countries can serve as a model for the region. In another meeting, Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi emphasized that both countries are “convinced that the top priority is achieving real stability in the region.” Oman, unlike other Gulf sheikhdoms, has good relations with the Islamic Republic. Their cooperative relationship actually predates Iran’s 1979 revolution. The Shah of Iran provided troops to help Sultan Qaboos bin Said end a leftist revolt in 1973.
 
            But Oman is more than just a gas buyer and regional ally for Iran. The sultanate is also a key intermediary between Washington and Tehran. Over the past three years, Muscat has reportedly mediated on three occasions:
 
  September 2011: Muscat paid a $1 million bond to Tehran for the release of two American hikers arrested by Iranian authorities in 2009 who were sentenced to eight years imprisonment for spying.
 
•  April 2013: Oman worked with the United States to speed up the release of Iranian scientist Mojtaba Atarobi. The electrical engineering professor had been detained for more than a year in California for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions.
 
•  August 2013: President Barack Obama reportedly sent a letter to President Rouhani through Sultan Qaboos, who visited Tehran shortly after Rouhani’s inauguration. The exact contents of the letter and Rouhani’s reply are unknown but Obama’s remarks hinted that they discussed the nuclear dispute and Syria.
 
            The following is a joint statement released by Iran and Oman with excerpted remarks by Rouhani.
Iran-Oman Joint Statement
 
            Within the framework of deepening and cementing the existing friendship and cooperation relations between the Sultanate of Oman and the Islamic Republic of Iran, and in response to the generous invitation by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Dr. Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran paid an official visit to the Sultanate of Oman heading a high level delegation during the period from March 12th to 13th. 2014. 
 
            His Majesty the Sultan gave an official welcome ceremony in the honour of the guest and his accompanying delegation in the presence of a number of their highness, the minsters and senior officials from both sides. The reception reflected the brotherly feeling and the deep-rooted relations. 
 
            Amidst an atmosphere characterized by goodwill, friendship and cooperation, the two parties held an official talk session that focused on developing the bilateral relations, discussing a number of regional international and Islamic World issues of common interest. The official talks came with the following results; 
 
1-The two sides expressed their satisfaction over the bilateral friendship relations based on confidence, mutual trust and renewed their strong will to develop these relations in all fields of common interest. 
 
2-Considering the historic, cultural bonds and good neighbouring relations, the two sides stressed the importance of implementing the cooperating program and developing relations in all available fields that serve the interests of both countries and friendly peoples. 
 
3-The two sides were delighted for the achieved agreement on the level of cooperation committees between the two countries in all possible fields. They stressed their keenness to hold the committees' meetings regularly to ensure developing and nurturing the bilateral cooperation relations. 
 
4-The two parties stressed the positive and fruitful role being played by the private sector in both countries in promoting bilateral cooperation hoping that these activities would increase the value of investments, as well as commercial and economic exchange between the Sultanate and the Islamic Republic of Iran. 
 
5-While the two sides talked on developing bilateral relations, they also touched on the regional, International and Islamic world issues.  They stressed the importance of doubling the efforts and exerting more offices to ensure stability and security of the region and the world based on collective cooperation. 
 
6-The two parties affirmed the importance of combatting all forms and types of terrorism and called for continuing cooperation and development in the region, as well as compliance with the U.N decisions related to having a world free of violence and extremism. 
 
7-The two sides welcomed the accords reached at the negotiations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and 5+1 Group. They emphasised on the importance of continuing such talks to reach the prospective reconciliation. 
 
            At the end of the visit, Dr. Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran expressed his thanks and appreciation to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, the government and the people of the Sultanate of Oman for the warm welcome and generous hospitality. 
 
            Dr. Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran has extended a kind invitation to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said to visit the Islamic Republic of Iran. The invitation was welcomed by His Majesty. The date of the visit will be arranged through diplomatic channels.
 
President Rouhani's Remarks
 
            “The sensitivity of the Strait of Hormuz waterway adds special importance to the southern littoral countries of the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.
            “This visit aims to strengthen mutual relations… we seek to implement contracts in various fields of trade, economy, particularly in the oil and gas sectors as well as financial, banking and cultural issues between the two countries..”
            March 12, 2014 to reporters en route to Oman
 
     “Mutual interests require strengthening of bilateral ties, as there are numerous capacities for promoting economic cooperation.
      “We, as Muslim states, are duty-bound to help establish peace and security in the region and we have always underlined that peace and stability will only be established by the regional countries themselves.”
            March 12, 2014 to Omani Deputy Prime Minister Fahad bin Mahmoud
 
            “One of the key policies of the [new] administration since it began its work more than six months ago has been constructive interaction with the world and other countries. Iran extends a hand of friendship and brotherhood to all regional countries, particularly its neighbors in the southern part of the Persian Gulf.
            “Relations with one country should not grow at the expense of another. We want to see the countries of the region live in peace, understanding and friendship.
            “Cooperation and rapprochement would benefit the whole region.
Iran is “open to investors from the region, especially Omanis.”
            March 13, 2014 in a meeting with Iranian and Omani businessmen
 
Photo credit: President.ir

 

Zarif and Ashton: Nuke Deal Prospects

            At a press conference on March 9, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton emphasized their commitment to securing a nuclear agreement before July 2014. The six-month deadline that the world’s six major powers and Iran agreed on can be extended by another six months by mutual consent. But Zarif told journalists that with “desire, commitment and willingness, a comprehensive deal can be reached ... in four or five months.” Ashton, however, warned that the road to a final agreement will be “difficult” and “challenging.” She added that there is “no guarantee” that the two sides will succeed.

            Ashton’s two-day trip to Iran marks the first visit by an E.U. foreign policy chief since 2008. The primary aim of the visit was to discuss new opportunities for improving Iran’s relationship with the European Union. Ashton discussed trade, human rights, the Syrian conflict and other pressing issues in her meetings with President Hassan Rouhani, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani and Foreign Minister Zarif. The following are excerpted remarks by Ashton and Zarif.
 
 
 
E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Catherine Ashton
           
             “I think that [interim nuclear agreement] should give you a real indication of the approach that the international community wants to take. I want to commend Minister Zarif and his team for the work that they have done. I have been engaged in discussions with Iran for nearly four years and I think this interim agreement is really really important, but not as important as a comprehensive agreement that we are currently engaged in. Difficult, challenging, there is no guarantee it will succeed, but I think it’s very important with the support of the people of Iran for the work that is going on by the Minister and his team and with the support of the International Community for my work that we should aim to try and succeed.”
 
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
            “Iran is determined to reach an agreement ... We have shown goodwill and we have done our side. Now it is up to the other party to show the same goodwill and determination.
            “With desire, commitment and willingness a comprehensive deal can be reached ... in four or five months.
            “But that requires a recognition that Iran will only accept a solution that is respectful, that respects the rights of the Iranian people.
            “Iran finds it in its own interest to make sure that there are no ambiguities about Iran’s intentions, because we have no intention to seek nuclear weapons."
 

EU’s Ashton on Landmark Visit to Iran

            E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton arrived in Tehran on March 8 for a two-day visit—the first visit by an E.U. high representative since 2008. The primary aim of the trip was to discuss new opportunities for improving Iran’s relationship with the European Union. Ashton discussed trade, human rights, the Syrian conflict, the nuclear talks, the Afghan drug trade and other common interests in meetings with President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif, Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani and civil society activists. Ashton said she came away with “a real sense” that Iranians across the political spectrum are committed to the nuclear talks. The following are excerpted remarks by Ashton and Iranian leaders from the visit.

President Hassan Rouhani
 
      “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.
 
      The government is “interested in establishing a new relationship with the European Union” which has many “common goals and interests.”
            “Your visit [to Iran] as the representative of the foreign policy of 28 European countries has a greater political connotation [than visits by individual country delegations].”
 
            “By passing the current stage [nuclear negotiations] properly,” Iran and the European Union will be able to discuss important strategic issues, such as establishing a “strategic relationship” in the areas of energy trade and the transit of goods.
 
            “We hope that we can take new and serious steps” using “the good atmosphere” that has been created in Iran-E.U. relations.”
            March 9, 2014 in a meeting with E.U. High Representative Ashton
 
E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Catherine Ashton
 
            I have visited Iran to convey the “goodwill message” of the 28 member states of the European Union.
 
            For the first time, Iran and the European Union are discussing issues other than the nuclear dispute, which is a “start for expansion of cooperation.”
 
            “My presence shows that the European Union is willing, concurrent with nuclear negotiations, to have better, more effective, and more dynamic relations with Iran.”
            March 9, 2014 in a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani
 
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani
 
      “The Islamic Republic of Iran has made great efforts to establish stability and peace in the region including in Afghanistan and Iraq and it is currently ready to continue good cooperation with the European Union to settle the Syria crisis.
 
      “There is no need for options such as military [approaches] and arming… extremists and terrorists; and only the country’s people should be given the chance to consolidate democracy… in Syria through a gradual and peaceful process.
            March 9, 2014 in a meeting with E.U. High Representative Ashton
 
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
 
      “Iran is determined to reach an agreement ... We have shown goodwill and we have done our side. Now it is up to the other party to show the same goodwill and determination.
 
      “With desire, commitment and willingness a comprehensive deal can be reached ... in four or five months.
      
      “But that requires recognition that Iran will only accept a solution that is respectful, that respects the rights of the Iranian people.
 
            “Iran finds it in its own interest to make sure that there are no ambiguities about Iran’s intentions, because we have no intention to seek nuclear weapons.”
            March 9, 2014 in a joint press conference with E.U. High Representative Ashton
 
E.U. High Representative Catherine Ashton
 
            “Thank you Minister Zarif. You and I meet often now in the discussions on the nuclear issue, but this is as you rightly say the first occasion when we have met in the bilateral capacity of the High Representative of the European Union and the Foreign Minister of Iran. I want to say thank you for your invitation to come here and for your courtesy and a very useful and fruitful meeting.
 
            “As you have said, this was our opportunity to discuss issues of interest and concern to us in the region, to have an opportunity to talk about the terrible situation in Syria, to focus on areas of cooperation around the future of Afghanistan - especially we talked about the problems and challenges we face with the drugs trade - of course we raised the issue, as you have done with me, of the potential of our human rights dialogue in the future, and we talked about a way to move forward.
 
            “I consider it a really important occasion to be here in Iran and to have the opportunity to talk about these bilateral issues. And as you said, we also took a few moments to talk about issues concerning our next round of discussions in Vienna.
 
            “And I am very much looking forward to meeting with the President and with others whom I have not met yet, and to have a chance to talk with them as well on the basis of our bilateral discussions.
 
            “I came here yesterday on International Women’s day and I want to say too that it was a great privilege to meet with women from Iran, and to have the chance to celebrate with them International Women’s day and to talk about issues for women in Iran and in Europe, and indeed across the world. Thank you.
 
            “I think that [interim nuclear agreement] should give you a real indication of the approach that the international community wants to take. I want to commend Minister Zarif and his team for the work that they have done. I have been engaged in discussions with Iran for nearly four years and I think this interim agreement is really really important, but not as important as a comprehensive agreement that we are currently engaged in. Difficult, challenging, there is no guarantee it will succeed, but I think it’s very important with the support of the people of Iran for the work that is going on by the Minister and his team and with the support of the International Community for my work that we should aim to try and succeed.
            March 9, 2014 in a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Zarif
 
National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani
 
      “The outcome of the nuclear talks is a big test for founding new relations with the union [European Union].”
 
      “Negotiations and dialogue based on logic, mutual respect and guaranteeing interests have always been the fundamental strategy of Iran, and within this framework, we are ready for constructive cooperation and interaction with different countries.”
            March 9, 2014 in a meeting with E.U. High Representative Ashton
 
Supreme Leader’s Senior Foreign Policy Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati
 
      “The measures adopted by American officials under the pretext of [being under] pressure from the Zionists [Israelis] are not acceptable. Such actions by the Americans serve as an obstacle in the way of an international agreement between the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic [on the nuclear issue].”
            March 9, 2014 in a meeting with E.U. High Representative Ashton
 
 
E.U. High Representative Ashton
 
            “The main purpose of the visit was to, as E.U. High Representative, have a chance to talk to Iran about the potential for the relationship that we can have in the future. Many European Union countries’ ministers are coming here. Many have historical links and this was about joining up the whole of the EU in thinking through the issues that we would want to discuss. Not surprisingly there was a big focus on human rights: I met with women activists on International Women’s Day and talked to them about the situation that women find themselves in and some of the work that these women are engaged in, from journalists to those involved with Afghan refugees, people working across the spectrum of civil society and the importance of civil society.
 
            “And then thinking about some of the issues in the region, for example the real challenges of the drug trade from Afghanistan. Iran faces real difficulties there. There are ways in which we could work together to try and address that. And then looking into the future, the possibilities of all sorts of dialogues and discussions; again an example would be the environment. So that sort of group of different issues, things we may be able to talk about now because they’re important to the European Union to do now, but most importantly things that could be, depending on what happens with the nuclear talks -inevitably that’s been a backdrop to the conversations I’ve had.
 
            “One of the things that’s been very clear is the support that is given across the political spectrum for the work that is going on currently in Vienna to try and move forward on a comprehensive [nuclear] agreement. That does not mean that we’ll get an agreement; it does not mean that people are committed to any possible outcome at this stage, but I have had a real sense that people are committed to wanting to see the talks happen and that, I think, is encouraging of itself.”
 
            “It’s also been for me interesting to see during the visit that people have wanted to talk across a spectrum of different issues and have been willing to meet with me and engage and that, I think, is important. Not surprisingly a number of issues in the region have been big focal points, but I’m at least encouraged that we’ve been able to talk frankly about some of these issues and I hope that if we are successful with the negotiations, and it’s a big if, that we’ll be able to start to move forward on a range of different issues with Iran.
            March 9, 2014 in remarks after her visit
 

Photo credits: European External Action Service via Flickr
 
 

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