Rouhani On…

by Jasmin Ramsey

On June 17 Iran’s president-elect Hassan Rouhani gave a general press conference that was televised on IRINN (the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network). Following are some excerpts from the transcript separated by the subject lines that I’ve incorporated.

Foreign Policy

[Rowhani] The second point you mentioned was foreign policy. There might be other questions in this regard. The synopsis is that the new government feels that a new opportunity arises to have dialogue with the world. People created the opportunity. People’s turnout was the opportunity. Their active participation, involvement, and votes have created the opportunity. I hope that all countries use the opportunity, because it will result in mutual interests. According to the situation in the world today, where there are many tensions in the fields of economy and politics in the region, not only Iran will definitely benefit from having dialogue with the Islamic Republic and the future government, but also the region and the world.

Iranian-Saudi Relations

[Unidentified Al-Jazirah correspondent, in Persian] Hello and congratulations to you, Dr Hasan Rowhani. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdallah was one of the first people who congratulated you on your victory. I would like to know how relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Arab states, particularly the [Arab] states of the Persian Gulf, will be developing during your presidency. The second question: I would like to know your opinion on the crisis in Syria. Thank you very much.

[Rowhani] As regards the first question, the government’s priority in foreign policy is to have friendly and close relations with all neighbors. This is among the priorities of this government. It means that there will be very close and good-neighborly relations with 15 neighboring countries, as well as friendship and mutual relations based on respect and mutual interests. The Persian Gulf region that you mentioned and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf have their special features because of the strategic importance of the Persian Gulf from the political and economic points of view. We are not only neighbors with southern states of the Persian Gulf, but also brothers. We are not only neighbors and brothers with Saudi Arabia but all Muslims’ Kiblah [the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca toward which Muslims turn when they pray] is there. It is a country that we have very close cultural, historic, and regional relations with. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians travel to Saudi Arabia for Hajj ceremonies. Many Saudi Arabian citizens travel to our country. The basis for dialogue and cooperation in economic, cultural, and political fields is fully ready between the two countries. I am happy that the first security agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia was signed by me on behalf of the Iranian side in 1377 [1998-1999]. God willing, I hope that we will have very good relations with neighbors, particularly with Saudi Arabia during the next government.


[Al-Jazirah correspondent] [Will you please answer] the second question about the crisis in Syria?

[Rowhani] Resolving the Syria problem is up to the people of Syria. The nation of Syria is the final decision-maker on the destiny of Syria.

[Rowhani] Of course, we are against terrorism. We are against civil war. We are against other countries’ interference in Syria’s affairs. We hope that with the help of all countries in the region and the world, peace and calmness will be back in Syria as soon as possible. We hope that the Syrian nation’s aim and opinion will be fulfilled in Syria.

Iran’s Nuclear Program/Sanctions

[Rowhani] The problem of sanctions is a problem that we are facing today. Of course, all of us know that the sanctions are cruel. The nation of Iran has not done anything that deserves sanctions. What has been done is legal and in the framework of international rules. Basically, I want to say that using sanction tools are backwardness tools. Their time has passed, particularly in a situation where even the West is facing economic problems in today’s world. They also know that the sanctions harm the West. If the sanctions benefit someone, it is only Israel. They are not beneficial for anyone else. Therefore, sanctions cannot have a correct basis. In order to reduce and resolve the problem of sanctions step by step, we will take two measures. First, it is to step in the path of more transparency. Of course, our nuclear plans are fully transparent, but we are ready to show more transparency and make it clear for the whole world that measures of the Islamic Republic of Iran are fully in the international frames. Second, we will increase mutual trust between Iran and other countries. Wherever trust is to be undermined, we will attempt to restore it. I believe that mutual trust and transparency within the framework of international regulations and principles are the solution to put an end to sanctions. We will move in both fields. God willing, we will reduce the sanctions. We will first have to prevent new sanctions from being applied, then reduce them and later, God willing, to be completely removed.

[France 24 correspondent, in English, simultaneously translated into Persian] Thank you Mr President for giving us the opportunity to ask you questions. My question is: Are you going to suspend the enrichment of uranium as you did before in order to [words indistinct] with the international community?

[Rowhani] That era is over now. Now we are in a special situation. I think we have plenty of ways of building trust. Since you are from France, I should tell you that in negotiations in the year 2005, we reached a final agreement with Mr Chirac [former French president] on how to create international trust, while enrichment continued in Iran. Our agreement with Mr Chirac could have been the final solution; the Germans agreed with it too, unfortunately the British did not agree, under US pressure, and the work was left incomplete. Therefore, I think there are plenty of ways to build trust. One is the previous agreement between me and Mr Chirac. That agreement could be one of the solutions.

Nuclear Talks

[Tasnim correspondent] I congratulate you on your victory in the presidential elections on my and Tasnim news agency’s behalf. Dr, if the P5+1 presents your government with a proposal on partially suspending the [uranium] enrichment, suspending a part of it, will you accept it? And can you briefly let us know about your opinion on Almaty 1 negotiations on proposals made with regard to Fordo [nuclear facility], please?

[Rowhani] These questions on details have to be discussed at their own right time. You see, the base of the nuclear issue and the issues we have with the P5+1 is that [pauses]… By God’s grace, we will have more active negotiations with the P5+1. This is the main point. And we are of the opinion that the nuclear issue can only and only be resolved through negotiations. Neither threats, nor sanctions are effective. The solution lies in holding negotiations and reaching a mutual trust. The solution of reaching a mutual trust is possible. This was done before. We will benefit from previous experiences. The fact is that the Iranian nation’s undeniable rights will always be considered by the future government. And it [future government] will constantly make efforts to save the people from the cruel sanctions step by step, and to be able to build better relations with the countries of the world, particularly the neighboring states, as I emphasized before.

[Tasnim correspondent] Fordo? The proposals made with regard to Fordo?

[Rowhani] These are detailed points of the negotiations.

International Relations

[Rowhani] As I have said earlier, our main policy will be to have constructive interaction with the world. After this election and with the nation’s high turnout, the situation on the international level has changed. You can see how public opinion in the world, global media, and political figures are looking at Iran. The current atmosphere of the world will certainly have an impact and this recent atmosphere will most certainly provide a new opportunity, and I hope that with this new opportunity our relations with the world will be better.

Press Freedom in Iran

[Maliheh Hoseyni, from Bahar Newspaper reporter] Mr Rowhani, I want to pour my heart out to you. In the past eight years the Iranian nation suffered a lot of hardship and the Press Union suffered even more hardship. Mr Rowhani, the Iranian Press Union, which is the only hope for the journalists, is still closed [the audience applauded]. Mr Rowhani, you returned hope to Iran. The expectation of journalists is that you return their only hope back to them.

[Rowhani] I was not the one who returned hope to Iran. People did, with their participation and enthusiasm. Whatever we have is thanks to the people. I believe all unions, not only Press Unions, should be active within the framework of law. This is because these unions are the best routes to manage the issues of the society. Managing the society’s problems should be referred to the unions and professional guilds. I will try my best to make this happen.

Domestic Politics

[Press TV reporter speaking in English] Thank you very much Mr Rowhani for giving us time to ask our questions. I am from Press TV, Iran’s 24-hour News Network in English. We would like to know whether you will be forming a national unity government with Principlists included in your cabinet? Thank you very much.

[Rowhani] As I said in my campaigns, the next government will be beyond any specific party or current. I mean in the next government all suitable forces including liberals, reformists and Principlists will have a part. There will no restrictions in this regard. Of course, I do not like the term coalition very much, my government will be beyond any specific party and will include all skilful individuals.

US-Iran Relations

[Moderator] NBC TV correspondent from the United States

[NBC correspondent, in English] Mr President, Ali Ruzi, NBC news. Congratulations on your victory. My question is that the State Department has congratulated you and the Iranian people on the election result, and they have said that they want to engage in direct dialogue. Would you be willing to engage in direct dialogue with the United States?

[Rowhani laughing] What a difficult question you are asking me.

[Rowhani addressing the translator] Please translate it.

[Translator translates the question into Persian]

[Rowhani] The issue of relations between Iran and the United States is a complicated and difficult issue. It’s not a simple issue. After all, there is an old scar. Prudence has to be adopted to cure this scar. Of course, we will not pursue continuing or expanding tensions. We will not pursue adding to tensions. It would be wise for the two nations and countries to think more of the future. They should find a solution to the past issues and resolve them. They should think of the future. But any talks with the United States have to take place based on mutual respect, mutual interests, and mutual stances. It definitely depends on certain conditions. And those conditions have to be fulfilled. First, as stated in the Algiers Accord [brokered by the Algerian government between the United States and Iran to resolve the Iran hostage crisis in 1981], the Americans have to confirm that they will not interfere in Iran’s internal issues ever. Second, they have to officially recognize the Iranian nation’s rights, including the nuclear right. Third, they should avoid unilateral or bullying policies against Iran. And of course, under such circumstances, the grounds [for holding talks] would be ready. If we feel there is goodwill involved, then the grounds [for talks] would be different. But everyone should know that the future government will not ignore the rightful rights of the Iranian nation under any circumstances. And on this basis, we would be ready for the tension to become less, and even if we see goodwill, it would be possible to take steps toward building trust within a framework that the Islamic Republic of Iran has. And I have pointed out the framework.

Photo Credit: Amir Kholousi

Jasmin Ramsey

Jasmin Ramsey is a journalist based in Washington, DC.