Iran Could Link Europe to Mideast

Iran Could Link  Europe to MideastIran Could Link  Europe to Mideast

President Hassan Rouhani said Iran has the potential to act as a connecting point between Europe and the Middle East to pave the way for increased international trade due to its position as a major political and economic player in the region.

"In view of its highly important geopolitical and geoeconomic position, the Islamic Republic of Iran could become a hub for facilitating expansion of economic relations between Belgium and the wider European Union and the whole [Middle East] region," Rouhani said in a meeting with Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders in Tehran on Monday, IRNA reported.

"The timely use of the opportunity would benefit all countries," he added.

Pointing to the "friendly and historical" relations between Tehran and Brussels and the Iranian people's "positive attitude" toward the western European country, the president underscored the need for greater efforts to boost ties in such sectors as economy, industries and energy.

He expressed the government's readiness to take measures to lay the groundwork for improving collaboration between the two countries' private firms.

Rouhani noted that the July 14 nuclear agreement between Iran and major powers has set the stage for Tehran's closer involvement in international efforts to address global challenges, but the parties to the pact first need to fully comply with its terms to help build "mutual trust".

"On condition that the other side meets its commitments [under the accord], the Islamic Republic of Iran will remain bound to its undertakings and the agreement will be implemented properly and precisely, creating a sound foundation for mutual trust," he said.

Referring to the scourge of insecurity that threatens the region, Rouhani highlighted the necessity of mounting a "collective campaign" to curb violence and terror.

"Today, violence and extremism have engulfed a large part of the Middle East and if the phenomenon grows unchecked, its repercussions will certainly not remain limited to the region and will spread to other parts of the world," he said.

  Belgium Keen on Better Ties

The Belgian minister said his country has also felt the danger posed by terrorist groups and is well aware of the need for an effective fight against terrorism. Reynders underlined the key role Tehran can play in helping resolve regional issues and said the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Libya could be defused only through political means.

The top Belgian diplomat hoped that the sanctions relief envisaged for Iran under the nuclear deal would clear the way for promotion of bilateral cooperation.

"Belgium is keen to increase its relations with Iran in all areas, especially energy and economy," he said.

Reynders also met with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the same day.

In a joint press conference after the meeting, Zarif said the two diplomats have signed a memorandum of understanding for expansion of political exchanges between their ministries and the missions of the two countries to international organizations.

  Wide-Ranging Coop. With S. Africa

In a separate meeting with South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday, Rouhani said Iran's southern ports could be the junctions that connect South Africa to Central Asia and even East Europe.

Stressing the importance of having wide-ranging cooperations with African countries, especially South Africa, Rouhani said there are numerous potential fields of cooperation such as mining, industries, agriculture and high-tech.

"In the new era, after the sanctions are lifted, we should be able to further expand Tehran-Pretoria relations," Rouhani said.

The president also pointed to the potential for increasing scientific cooperation, stressing that Iran's universities and research centers welcome South African students and scholars.

Rouhani said Iran is seriously looking to fight global extremism and believes that the global community should join, such that it can be another field in which the two countries can cooperate.

Describing terrorism as a multidimensional problem, the top official said to deal with terrorism, a comprehensive plan and the participation of all countries are needed, for the preparation of which Iran and South Africa can play a big role.

Ramaphosa pointed to the similar approach of two countries regarding various international issues, including the growth of terrorism, and underlined the need to share experiences to be able to deal better with these problems.

"As the sanctions are being removed, new opportunities for improving Iran relations have emerged," he said. "We intend to expand mutual ties based on shared interests."