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Foreign Miniter Zarif: Iran is committed to Geneva deal


Foreign Miniter Zarif: Iran is committed to Geneva deal


Two months have passed since Iran and Western powers signed an agreement in Geneva which would put an end to Iran’s decade long nuclear crisis. Less than a day after that, Iran and the US started squabbling over the terms of the agreement as to who is committed to what.

Dr. Mohammad Jvad Zarif, Iran’s Foreign Minister, spoke to euronews about the problems.

euronews: “Dr. Zarif, what’s wrong with the agreement? Why are you squabbling over it with the US?”

Dr. Mohammad Jvad Zarif: “We are not, we are actually sticking to the letter of the agreement. That’s why we didn’t produce any fact sheets. We believe it is important for us to use this opportunity to build confidence.”

euronews: “Hardly a week passes in which you wouldn’t say that no we continue with our nuclear programme and America would say, ‘No, they are not allowed to do this, they are not allowed to do that’. So immediately after the press conference at the end of the Geneva negotiations – I was there – you said that we are going to continue with our nuclear programme, then Mr. Kerry came and said they are not allowed to continue with their programme. Now the public have the right to know.”

Zarif: “The agreement is very clear. There are certain parts of the Iranian nuclear programme that will continue; there are certain parts that … I mean.. the enrichment over five percent, that we have agreed not to continue.”

euronews: “So the ‘hoo-ha’ is for internal consumption?”

Zarif: “I have tried to remain very true to what we agreed and not to try to ‘spin’ it for domestic consumption, that is why I didn’t produce any fact sheets. It wasn’t an attempt by Iran to win at the expense of the other side because we believe that is not sustainable. And now we have agreed that on February 18 we will meet in Vienna to start working on the difficult part, that is the comprehensive deal.”

euronews: “Right. In return for a partial cut to your nuclear programme, you are now receiving the seven billion dollars Iranian assets frozen in America, in tranches, is that right?”

Zarif: “There are sanctions relief. Of course we did not believe from the beginning that these sanctions were legal, because this is our money and there is no international legal instrument that would prevent us from having access to our money. There is some cash that will become available, there are other areas, for instance revenues from petrochemical sales by Iran. So, that amounts to some amount of money, but I am not going to quarrel about the exact dollar figure because it’s just the beginning and we will start knowing how much it will come to when it comes to the end of the six months.”

euronews: “So in short, you are receiving tranches of your own money but not in cash often. What’s dictated to Iran is: we release this amount of money in return for sending you our goods at the price that we decide.”

Zarif: “No, it’s not. Actually we can take some of this money in cash, and the rest in open letters of credit with whoever we want to purchase. It is not… I don’t like to be dictated to and I will never accept anything dictated to me….”

euronews: “But they have put a cap on oil exports…”

Zarif: “They had put a cap on oil exports previously. They agreed not to increase the cap. As I said, these sanctions were illegal to begin with, but we are dealing with a world that is not run by legality. It is a world, unfortunately, where American political muscle and economic muscle usually go to persuade countries and the private sector…”

euronews: “Do you see yourself as a victim?”

Zarif: “I see the international community as a victim, because we have allowed might to be able to overcome right. But that’s the fact and I am not going to quarrel about that. It is a situation where we want to move ahead and establish a different type of relations with the international community. As you know, we came into office only six months ago, and we inherited a situation which was not the best circumstances. The United States was enabled – basically because of certain mistakes that were made – to impose its views on the rest of the international community. It is not a healthy exercise but it is an exercise that is ongoing nevertheless.”

euronews: “You have invited oil companies, cartels, international cartels to come to Iran and sign agreements for Iranian oil. What are the terms on which you have agreed with them? And if you have already signed any contracts….”

Zarif: “It is just the beginning and few haven’t signed any contracts….”

euronews: “Are you going to release copies of those contacts for the public to see?”

Zarif: “Usually, oil contracts are not public documents. In no other country, there are confidentiality clauses in every oil deal that is available, but we have constitutional limitations. We are trying to make our oil sector more open to international investment, and our ministry of petroleum is in the process of developing new types of agreements. I am sure the model agreement will be out in the open. We’ll make it public once it is ready so that everybody, every oil company can benefit from the new openings in the Iranian market which is very much appreciated by international oil companies, but the details of every deal that we make with every corporation will be governed by the confidentiality clauses within that agreement.”

euronews: “The public – Iranians – are concerned that you being in this situation, you’ve already succumbed to pressure by the international community, they are afraid that these contracts are being signed to the benefit of the oil cartels and that they go back to the Qajar period” (the dynasty before Pahlavi during whose reign, Iran was badly exploited by the powers of the time i.e. Britain, France and Russia. It is known as the darkest page in the Iranian history)

Zarif: “That will certainly not happen. The Iranian public has a way of expressing its views, and that is through the ballot box. They’ve done it in the past. If they consider our behaviour to be outside the limits of national interest, they will do it again.”

euronews: “Let’s move to your area, and that is foreign policy. Recently you said that all foreign forces in Syria had to leave, vacate the country and leave it to the people to decide. In that case why is it that the Quds Force (elite branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) is still there and has a very strong presence in Syria?”

Zarif: “What I have said and what I continue to believe is that the future of Syria is for the Syrian people to determine, and the Syrian people should do it without interference from the outside. Now, Iran is pledging its support for a political outcome, because we believe there is no….”

euronews: “But you have a military presence there…”

Zarif: “We don’t have a military presence. The Syrian government is a government recognised by the United Nations, has a seat in the United Nations, and Iran has long-standing relations with that government. I believe those who are supporting terrorist groups that are on the UN list of terrorist organisations, those should be accountable for the support that they are providing – the money, the arms – that they are providing those terrorist organisations. I don’t see any law against having relations with Syria but Iran does not have armed forces in Syria.”

euronews: “Very well, one last question. Ever since Mr. Rouhani came to power, the number of executions have dramatically increased. What do you have to say about that?”

Zarif: “Our judiciary is independent. And the presidential elections has had very little effect on the judiciary. Of course, we do not get ourselves involved or intervene in the affairs of the judiciary. We would like to see, certainly lower executions in all countries, we would like to see greater respect for human rights in all countries and certainly our human rights record can be improved, but it takes time for this government to have an impact on all aspects of Iranian life.”

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