By: Kourosh Ziabari
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s first trip to New York to attend the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly was a benchmark in the course of new administration’s efforts to restructure and renovate Iran’s relations with the world.
Aside from his brilliant and promising speech to the General Assembly which was lauded by the domestic political parties, politicians, lawmakers and also praised by the international community, President Rouhani became the shining star among hundreds of international guests there with the interviews he gave to the American media and his meetings with the world leaders on the sidelines of the General Assembly session. President Rouhani who took office after the Iranian nation embraced his platform of “prudence and hope” and his proposal for “constructive engagement” with the world is now at the center of international attention. Prior to his departure for New York, President Rouhani had pledged that he would be trying to present the true, concealed face of Iran to the international observers in the UN, and it’s fair to say that he almost successfully accomplished this task. It’s more than a decade that controversy surrounding Iran’s nuclear energy program is a constant, unchanging theme in the diplomatic talks across the globe and also the international media’s coverage of Iran. The Western powers continue to insist that Iran’s nuclear activities have a military dimension, and that Iran should abandon its nuclear program. Based on this unfounded allegation, the United States and its allies have imposed stringent sanctions on Iran which have troubled the country’s economy and the daily lives of the Iranian citizens. On the other side, Tehran maintains that its nuclear program is solely aimed at peaceful purposes and that the IAEA inspectors have frequently visited Iran’s nuclear facilities and confirmed the peaceful nature of its activities. However, these arguments have so far failed to convince the other side of the conflict. But as President Rouhani said in his press conference in New York before leaving the UN headquarters and returning to Iran, the Iranian nation has changed the public atmosphere of the country and also the spirit ruling Iran’s nuclear talks with the world powers. On Thursday morning, the foreign ministers of Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) plus Germany conferred in the UN headquarters in New York to talk about Iran’s nuclear program and set a timetable for finding a solution to the corrosive, tedious standoff over Iran’s civilian nuclear drive. The meeting was the highest-level encounter between the diplomats of Iran and the United States since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. It was also reported that the American delegation to the UN had submitted a request to the Iranian delegation to prepare the ground for a brief meeting between the presidents of the two countries, an offer which Iran turned down since President Rouhani described it too “complicated” to be accommodated in his short visit to New York. However, it seems that the ice of diplomatic stalemate between Iran and the United States is gradually melting as the world is coming to believe that Iran has the political resolve and decisiveness to put an end to the nuclear controversy and also solve its other differences and conflicts with the West in general, and the United States in particular. During his stay in New York, President Rouhani met with his French counterpart Francois Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Austrian President Heinz Fischer, Turkish President Abdullah Gul and the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle as well as the International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagard. He also conferred with politicians from other countries and also the heads of international organizations. However, what makes his trip to New York unique is that he met several European leaders who were holding talks with an Iranian president for the first time in around one decade, and had come there to express their optimism about the future of Iran’s relations with the West. The seasoned Iranian diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif who is the country’s foreign minister and had traveled to New York two days before President Rouhani also held several meetings with officials and diplomats from across the world, and that is part of what can be called an “active diplomacy.” He met the foreign ministers of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and finally, the U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry. The very event of meeting foreign diplomats or officials and holding talks with them is not important. What is important is that a diplomat who represents a country should demonstrate an aptitude and capability for attracting the positive and constructive attention of his counterparts in order to serve his country’s national interests, and it seems that Dr. Zarif exactly strode on this path during his week-long stay in New York. He talked to all of his Western counterparts about his country’s desire to fulfill the rights of its people in a peaceful manner which is not detrimental to the peace and security of other nations. He said that Iran is after a win-win solution for the nuclear controversy, and does not seek its security at the expense of the insecurity of other nations or regions. The first trip of Iran’s newly elected President Hassan Rouhani and his team to New York was a turning point in Iran’s international interactions. It has been publicly announced by EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton that Iran and the P5+1 will hold their next round of talks in Geneva on October 15 and 16. A breakthrough in these talks and a solution to end the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program which can be accompanied by a lifting of all the unilateral and multilateral sanctions will be a great victory for the Iranian nation in that it hasn’t forsworn its sovereign rights while allaying the concerns of the international community. It will be also a major failure for Israel, the hawkish think tanks and Zionist interest groups in the United States who never get tired of calling for wars and sanctions against other nations. If you read through the headlines of the US and European news agencies and newspapers, you will find hopeful and encouraging statements indicating that the world is accepting the fact that Iran is finding its lost position in the international community and going to emerge victorious after one decade of hostile policies and behavior it has been unconstructively subject to.