The Second Tehran Dialogue Forum was held online on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. It was led by Dr. Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour the president of the Institute for Political and International Studies.
H.E. Dr. Mohammad J. ZARIF, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Islamic Republic of Iran
H.E. Dr. J. Zarif began his speech by wishing a happy Nowruz to everyone. The celebration of Nowruz started approximately 300 years ago in the Iranian area united by the culture. The Iranian history and civilizations are known not by their warriors and military conquerors, but by those that conquered their hearts and minds: the mystics, the philosophers, the poets, and the scientists. In the Muslim part of the world of Nowruz, the new year begins and a new century, with a short and meaningful prayer. A new year and a new century imply that change is possible. The main question is how the region of West Asia can be reshaped. Regional reshaping means that they must first identify the principal causes of the problems of the broader area. The current situation in the Middle East is not good, with civil wars, instabilities, and atrocities, on the one hand, and the sub development in the social, economic, and human fields, on the other hand.
There are three mega roots: international interventions, securitization, and prioritization. There can be no question that prolonged and dangerous international interventions in the region are the causes of existing troubles. The region has been subject to geopolitical designs by extra-regional actors during the last five centuries. In recent memory, the US has exacerbated the insecurity and instability of this region more than any other region of the world. As its own figure suggests, some $7 trillion dollars have been wasted on forever wars and interventions in this region, in less than two decades. But the American intervention is not limited to the military sphere, it also introduced economic measures, directed against the Iranian people, especially at the time of the pandemic. As we now witness, there has been no difference of following a failed policy of the so-called Maximum Pressure, between the former and the current President. Because of its relative superiority in military might, the United States aims to securitize everything, in order to dominate the region. Everything is looked up from a military perspective. The region is built as a military zone and the dominant engagement is of military nature. This has another bonus for the United States and for its partners: selling ¼ of the arms being sold all over the world, to the states in the Persian Gulf. Securitization requires fabricated threats and enemies and, also, artificial friends and shallow alliances. Securitization changes regional priorities, from addressing the most serious challenges and the security threats to dealing with the fake ones. Such an example was to ignore the Palestinian issue. Sustaining Palestine should remain the biggest priority of the region. It is a global issue. There can be no peace and stability in the region and in the world while atrocities against Palestine continue. No one should forget or marginalize this human tragedy. Another priority of this region should concern problems of daily livelihood. Making the life of all people better needs the replacement of confrontation with cooperation. For this, the commitment to dialogue and diplomacy is a must. Unfortunately, the reality has been that some global and regional actors are unable to move beyond the zero-sum mentality. Some actors borrow their views from extra-regional actors, which result in differences, in deepening divisions in the region, and in perpetuating conflict. The reality is that nothing is actually wrong in the nature of the Middle East. All crises are man-made, being a combination of artificial constructs and contemporary, factional, or personal reasons. The people of the region can all live peacefully and manage their difference with rationality, as it happened for centuries. The key concepts are dialogue and diplomacy. Iran is eager for dialogue, which is the basis of diplomacy and which, sadly, is lacking in the region. There is no alternative to diplomacy and it can address the interests of all if managed properly. Iran has consistently promoted regional dialogue and diplomacy in the Persian Gulf, as reflected in President’s Rouhani Peace Endeavor. Iran also believes in cooperation with other parts of the Asian continent: Afghanistan, the Caucasus, and the Arab World at large. Through cooperation, they can achieve regional, social, economic, and human development. We should not believe the dangerous affirmation that Iran is a regional threat. The first person that advanced this, to regional and global actors, was Saddam Hussein, who, together with Prime Minister Netanyahu, killed more Arabs than anybody.
Iran will remain what it was for the past 3000+ years: a pillar of peace for the region. It is prepared to take any step that will make the region more stable and prosperous.
H.E. Mevlut Cavusoglu, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Republic of Turkey
This year is the right time to discuss cooperation. The COVID pandemic has shown the entire world how interconnected we are. The post-pandemic period will also require cooperation, both regional and international. The Caspian territory has the potential to connect the European Union and the Asian economic area, removing restrictions on transports and trade between two of the world’s most powerful economic regions. Recent meetings had shown that everyone is eager to be on board. Regional economic cooperation only needs a renewed commitment. The region can benefit from the remotion of the Silk Road. Turkey will continue to work with Iran and other Asian actors to achieve their economic goals. The main issues are the nature of politics and the choice of instruments that actors use. Politics can be the engine for achieving peace. Two important powers in the area, Turkey and Iran, have always maintained a close political dialogue on regional issues, even though there are some differences between them. But they have never cut out the engagement with each other, having understood the role of building confidence. For instance, Turkey stood from the beginning alongside Iran, against the unilateral sanctions and it has supported the full implementation of the JCPOA, now supporting the new US administration’s intention to return to the deal.
The issues in the Eastern Mediterranean area include the resources, which should be seen as an element for cooperation, rather than for competition. Yet, Turkey faces the politics of minimalized maritime claims and hostile alliances manipulated by Greece. As the country with the longest coastline in the region, Turkey has significant and undeniable rights and interests in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Also, it has rights over the resources near Cyprus. So, there is a clear need for cooperation in the region and this is the region why Turkey made various diplomatic openings.
As already stated, the region has a huge potential, but it also has problems, including sectarian division and terrorism. The common neighbor of Turkey and Iran, Iraq, has the necessary resources to stand on its feet again. It has suffered more than enough from war, occupation, and terrorism. The sectarian divide has also undermined the country. Furthermore, the presence on Syrian soil of terrorist organizations such as Daesh continues to be a problem for the region. They represent a threat not only to Syria’s territorial integrity but also to the national security of Iran and Turkey. All neighbors have suffered from the situation in Syria. To end the conflict, the actors in the region should have the unity and territorial integrity of Syria as the starting point for finding a solution. The Astana Process, initiated by Turkey, Iran, and Russia, has become the leading platform in facilitating peace-building.
From Palestine to many other problems in the Middle East region, there is a strong need for cooperation. However, not all news is bad news and not all conflict lasts forever, so there still is hope. Such examples are the conflicts in Afghanistan and in Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey is working hard to contribute to peace efforts and aims at contributing to the developments in Doha. Now, broader regional cooperation is possible and if the existing opportunities are seized, reconstruction and rehabilitation in the area will bring prosperity.
H.E. Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Afghanistan
Peace between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan is essentially contributing to counter-terrorism, regional civilization, and regional economic cooperation. In this respect, such peace can only be sustained by the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. What they have built over the past 20 years, regarding the political systems, as well as the core values that underpin their rebuilding, are essential conditions for sustaining a long-lasting peace. There are three critical principles that are needed for such peace. The first one refers to the fact that Afghan people are determined to preserve their independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of their country, and this must be respected. The second principle is the respect of the legitimacy of the government of Afghanistan, which has to be achieved at the end of the peace process. The third one is mutual security. This means that Afghanistan should not become a safe haven for international terrorists and that the security of Afghanistan should not be threatened, neither from inside nor from outside. Conflicts from outside should not be fought on Afghan soil. The final principle regards Afghanistan’s relations with its neighbors and with the international community. As an independent and sovereign state, Afghanistan will continue to favor multi-alignment with all actors with the same interests in terms of peace, security, stability, and economic prosperity. Moreover, there are two goals: to bring peace to Afghanistan and to preserve the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The two are mutually inclusive and separating them would lead to achieving neither of the goals. For achieving peace, an immediate ceasefire between the Taliban and the government, as well as international guarantees, are needed. Also, the peace process requires international cooperation and religious diplomacy. In this matter, the support that came from Iran is very much appreciated by the Afghan people.
About the author:
Delia-Maria MOTAN is Intern research at MEPEI, and her research interest lies in international relations and political science in the Middle East. Currently, she is studying at the Faculty of the Political Science / University of Bucharest.