Close Bonds With Neighbors Top Priority

Close Bonds With Neighbors Top Priority

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said expansion of relations with the neighboring countries is a top foreign policy priority.  
Upon his arrival in Tehran after a one-day visit to Afghanistan, Zarif held a press briefing and answered reporters' questions on Wednesday.   
In response to a question on the government's policy to play an effective role in the region, the minister said, "Neighboring states top our agenda, since any insecurity in these countries directly affects our national security," IRNA reported. The foreign minister noted that relations with neighbors are of high importance to the government and the administration has been reviewing relations with neighbors since it took office in 2013. Zarif said Afghanistan is specifically important to Iran for various reasons, adding, "We were faced with a great national security challenge from Afghanistan a decade ago, which was the Taliban in power."
"The issue not only wore down a great deal of our national strength, but it claimed the lives of some Iranian diplomats." The senior diplomat said the transit of illicit drugs through Iran and the creation of criminal gangs have presented great security and social challenges to Iran, adding, "These challenges can be addressed just in a prosperous and developed Afghanistan."  Referring to the presence of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in Afghanistan, he said, "We still believe that the anti-extremism fight in Afghanistan is serious and the IS is part of the threat and extremism in Afghanistan," noting, "The presence of foreign forces has provided a pretext for extremists to recruit forces to fight against them."
Zarif touched on two great developments unfolding in Afghanistan which can be used to Iran's advantage, first of which is the formation of a national unity government and the second one is the pull-out of foreign forces from the country.  
The senior diplomat said, "(Afghan President) Ashraf Ghani will make an imminent visit to Tehran, the time of which was discussed in my trip to Kabul."   
Referring to his decision to cancel a planned visit to Saudi Arabia, Zarif said, "Our foreign policy is on the basis of approaching our neighbors and removing the obstacles in this way, which is seriously pursued in line with the government's policies."  The foreign minister added, "Mutual political resolve is required on the part of the two countries (Iran and Saudi Arabia) to develop effective relations with neighbors and we should be assured that such a resolve does exist."    
In response to a question on Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov's comment that Iran and the major powers will clinch a comprehensive deal by March, the senior official said, "This is a mere guess and I suppose that such pure speculations will not be helpful for anyone."  


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