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October 2018, No. 89


Europe

Maintaining Trade & Political Relations
between Iran & Austria


Iran will safeguard the JCPOA if it could take advantage of its benefits, but there should be a full balance between the two sides.


President Hassan Rouhani visited Vienna on the second leg of his first European journey as the head of the 12th government. The journey also took him to Switzerland (early July).

Rouhani, in his first meeting with the head of the Swiss Confederation was promised that Bern would expand cooperation with Iran and ignore the US sanctions. In his meetings in Vienna with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, the Iranian President once again received assurances that Vienna would not only refuse to reduce the level of political and trade exchanges with Tehran because of the unilateral US sanctions, but would also boost bilateral ties.

President Van der Bellen told Rouhani that Austria was determined to maintain and develop its relations with Iran in all areas. The Austrian president whose country now holds the rotating EU presidency, added: “Washington’s secondary and transatlantic sanctions are contrary to the international law and are violation of human rights, and therefore the Austrian companies are opposed to it.”

Rouhani, who was greeted at the airport by the Austrian foreign minister, received an official welcome ceremony at Hofburg Palace by his Austrian counterpart. 

The Iranian delegation also signed four new cooperation agreements with Austria in the presence of Rouhani and Kurz. These agreements covered transport, water resources management, renewable energy and mine cooperation. 

Rouhani: US’s JCPOA Withdrawal Detrimental to Washington, Rest of the World 

Rouhani, at a joint press conference with his Austrian counterpart, thanking the host country for the warm welcome accorded to the Iranian delegation, said talks with the Austrian leaders were ‘constructive’. “After the JCPOA deal many delegations have been exchanged between the two countries and today there are hundreds of Austrian companies operating in Iran. The resolve of the two countries in these negotiations was that we should continue our trade, economic, cultural, regional and international relations.”

He hailed the JCPOA as a very important agreement for Iran, the European Union and the entire world. “The decision the United States has taken is in the interest of nobody, and this is a decision a government has taken contrary to its own national interests and contrary to the national interests of others.”

The President added: “Iran will safeguard the JCPOA if it could take advantage of its benefits, but there should be a full balance between the two sides. If the signatories other than the US manage to secure Iran’s interests we will continue to comply with the deal even without the United States.”

He said the developments in the sensitive region of West Asia were among other issues discussed with the Austrian officials. “In this we exchanged views about Tehran’s actions in the fight against terrorism, helping the Iraqi and Syrian people, the need to help the Yemeni people and the destructive role played by certain countries, including the United States and the Zionist regime.”

Rouhani added: “Full restoration of peace and security to these countries will benefit the region and the world.”

He said the two sides also held talks about other international issues. “Iran and Austria share identical views regarding JCPOA, the need to develop common relations and regional and international issues.”

Van der Bellen: US Sanctions Violate Human Rights 

Meanwhile, the Austrian president noted the long-standing relationship between the two countries and said: “Austria and Iran celebrate 160 years of political relations, but relations between the two countries date back to at least 500 years ago. This year, we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Austrian Cultural Association in Tehran and the 25th year of interfaith dialogue. I want to emphasize that our long-standing relationship is beyond the scope of economic and political cooperation.”

He added: “I would like to stress that there are many Iranians living in Austria, some with full Iranian nationality and some others having Austrian citizenship. I think it is very familiar to you, that about 2,000 doctors in the Austrian health system are working who have Iranian background.”

He further said: “Now, there are hundreds of Austrian companies operating in Iran, and Austria and the European Union are doing their best at this difficult time to create the necessary framework not only for establishing and sustaining of this cooperation, but to further deepen it.”

Noting that the JCPOA has never been based on the assumption that it would solve all the problems, the Austrian president said in the opinion of Vienna the Iran Nuclear Deal has only opened a window to address other issues.

He further stated that he had held extensive talks on a wide range of bilateral and regional issues with his Iranian counterpart. 

Van Der Bellen also regretted that the US had pulled out of the JCPOA deal. He also voiced regret that Washington was planning to impose new sanctions against Iran which would also affect Austria. “We at the EU Commission consider these secondary sanctions to be transatlantic and a violation of human rights.” 

An Old Friend of Iran in the Heart of Europe 

The Austrian government is one of the oldest friends of Iran in Europe. Tehran-Vienna diplomatic ties date back to 160 years ago. These relations have never been based on imperialist greed but founded on mutual interests of the two countries. Austria had close relationship with Tehran both before and after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The first visit by a European foreign minister to Tehran after the Revolution was from Austria (Erwin Lanc) and the first visit of an Iranian foreign minister to Europe was to Vienna in 1987 (Ali Akbar Velayati).

Austria later played an important role in Iran’s nuclear talks as the host country and during the international sanctions against Iran, it was one of the few European countries that continued trade and economic relations with Tehran. At the same time, it hosts nearly 30,000 Iranian students, and as the Austrian president said at the joint news conference with Rouhani, nearly 2,000 health care physicians in that country are Iranian nationals.

The then Austrian president Heins Fischer traveled to Tehran immediately after the Vienna Declaration and before the execution of JCPOA and invited his Iranian counterpart to visit his country. Although Rouhani’s visit to Austria did not happen when Fischer was the president but after the change of government in Vienna and the coming to power of a more conservative government, Austria still welcomed continuation of relations with Tehran, until early July this year, the Austrian President and Chancellor greeted Rouhani in Vienna

During Rouhani’s visit, Austrian statesmen reaffirmed that they will not pay attention to unilateral US sanctions on Iran and will work to develop bilateral relations with Tehran.

 

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