Renewed Call for Regional Cooperation

Iran believes its security needs to derive from peace in the region, so nothing is more important to the Islamic Republic than the security of the Persian Gulf and regional countries
Mohammad Javad ZarifMohammad Javad Zarif
Iran has frequently invited the Saudis to engage in dialogue for settling differences and called for Tehran-Riyadh cooperation to form mechanisms to restore regional security, but its overtures have so far been spurned by Riyadh

Iran's top diplomat reiterated the call for regional states to help end devastating conflicts in the region, assuring that they can count on Tehran as a motivated partner in efforts for restoring security to the crisis-hit Middle East countries.

Speaking in an interview with the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen television channel released on Tuesday, Mohammad Javad Zarif also said regional states ought to avoid anything that might lead to escalation of tensions.

"We don't need more conflicts in the region, but we need understanding and dialogue and cooperation," Fars News Agency quoted him as saying.

The foreign minister said Iran always extends its hand of cooperation and solidarity to all neighbors, believing that their security is inextricably bound up with that of Iran.    

"We believe Iran's security derives from peace in the region, so nothing is more important for us than the security of the Persian Gulf and all the countries in this region," he said.

Zarif said he believes "certain approaches" should change for the regional states to get closer, most importantly an attitude that security can be "imported".

"We cannot buy security from the outside [world]. There should be a will inside the region for creating security," he said, apparently referring to Saudi Arabia's dependence on the US for external security.

As recently as last June, during an arms-selling trip of US President Donald Trump to Saudi Arabia, the oil kingdom signed contracts worth $350 billion to appease the businessman-turned-politician.

Zarif said Iran is willing to cooperate with the Saudi government to solve vital issues affecting the Muslim world and disputes dividing regional nations, particularly the conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain.

The three are major bones of contention between the two countries: the Saudi-led war in the poorest Arab country Yemen, its supply of arms to militants in Syria and its assistance to the Bahraini government in crushing pro-democracy protesters.

"I believe what matters is that we get together to prevent such conflicts from inflicting sufferings on Muslim nations," he said.

The foreign minister was speaking in a conciliatory tone, similar to his language in the past couple of years, as he intends to heal widening fissures with an aggressive Saudi Arabia led by King Salman.

Zarif has frequently invited Saudis to engage in dialogue for settling differences and called for Tehran-Riyadh cooperation to form regional mechanisms to restore security to the region.

But his overtures have so far been spurned by Riyadh, which accuses Iran of subverting security in the region and aspiring to dominate it.  

***Saudis Keep Tough Line

The latest show of Saudi rejection of Iran's call for better ties came right on Tuesday, when its top diplomat, Adel al-Jubeir, denied any warming of mutual relations.

"If Iran wants to have good relations with Saudi Arabia, it has to change its policies. It has to respect international law," AFP quoted Jubeir as saying in a press conference in London.

Jubeir was dismissing widespread speculations that the Saudi leadership is trying to de-escalate tensions with Tehran and is shifting its policy vis-à-vis its northern neighbor.

The speculations were based on a series of signals interpreted as Saudis opting for better Iran ties, including a Zarif-Jubeir handclasp early August, a reported Saudi request from Iraq to mediate between Riyadh and Tehran in mid-August, the announcement of an Iran-Saudi diplomatic exchange expected in the coming days and the safe return of Iranians from the annual hajj pilgrimage held last week.

"The hajj is a religious obligation; it has nothing to do with politics," Jubeir said.

Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that if the hajj was held smoothly, it would be easier for the two countries to resolve their issues.

On Monday, Ali Qazi-Askar, a senior hajj official, thanked Saudi Arabia for treating Iranian pilgrims well and said after the successful organization of the pilgrimage, "it's time for talks to settle bilateral concerns in other spheres".


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