TEHRAN (Iran News) – Saudi Arabia has shown ‘positive signals’ for dialogue. In a virtual meeting through Clubhouse social media platform, hosted on April 20 by Al-Jazeera analyst Ali Hashem, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh answered questions by reporters from credible media around the world.
The Clubhouse session lasted for 100 minutes.
“It is in the interest of Iran and Saudi Arabia and regional stability and peace that we find a way to resolve disputes,” said Khatibzadeh in response to a question about recent reports on possible Iran-Saudi Arabia dialogue.
Khatibzadeh clarified, “We are working on building dialogues on the region,” refusing to confirm or deny news of meetings between Saudi and Iranian officials.
He affirmed that Iran always welcomes any positive dialogues between countries in the region and between actors in global politics.
There have always been efforts by Iran to try to create cooperation and dialogue with Saudi Arabia, he remarked.
“I can say that there have been many positive signals from Saudi Arabia as well,” he said, stressing that “there is a desire in Iran to restore relations with Riyadh.”
The Iranian official pointed out “we have many points for discussion with Saudi Arabia, including the files of Yemen, and Iran has supported from day one internal dialogue in Yemen and supported the efforts of the United Nations there, and we expect Saudi Arabia to help stop this human tragedy and support the efforts of the United Nations.”
Khatibzadeh stated that Iran has always played a constructive role in the region.
“We always try to have a strong region, and what happened in Yemen is not because of Iran’s policy, but because of Saudi Arabia’s war on those countries.”
‘Iran doesn’t interfere in Lebanon’
Regarding the situation in Lebanon, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman pointed out that “the situation in Lebanon is like the situation in the rest of the countries of the region, and we are far from Lebanon and we do not interfere with what is happening inside the country.”
Khatibzadeh said that he believes the U.S. policy during Donald Trump’s presidency was to portray the region as a battlefield.
“Iran is always working to separate the conflict with America from its policy in the region, and we do not want to make the region an arena for conflict with America,” the spokesman remarked.
Al-Jazeera analyst Ali Hashem pointed to some published reports that some meetings have been held between Iranian security officials and countries such as Jordan and the UAE, asking whether this is the same regional dialogue that Iran has been seeking for a long time.
In response, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said, “In our region, there are indigenous and endogenous initiatives and frameworks, such as the letter of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council, which was brought to Iran by the Emir of Kuwait, and the Hormuz Peace Initiative, which can be pursued.”
‘China is one of Iran’s main partners’
Responding to a question about the envisioned long term cooperation plan between Iran and China, Khatibzadeh noted that the agreement is a roadmap, and it was worked on for four years, stressing that “this agreement does not reflect on Iran’s relations with other countries. Our relationship with China is separate from our relationship with other countries. China is one of our main partners, and it is natural for us to sign such agreements.”
‘Verification of sanctions removal takes time’
Regarding the possible lifting of U.S. sanctions on Iran and the Vienna talks, Khatibzadeh explained that “it is natural that we are in a position today that we should verify America’s removal of sanctions, and we will not accept the removal of sanctions on paper only, and upon verification we will return to our full commitments to the nuclear agreement.”
He added, “We want to verify the removal of sanctions on oil, trade and banking relations, and this is not an easy task and what we are looking at in the Vienna negotiations is to look at how to verify the removal of sanctions.”
The spokesman then explained the procedure, stating that the first step is the negotiations with P4+1. “First, we have to negotiate with the 4+1 countries and these countries should negotiate with the U.S., and this needs arrangements to negotiate the way in which the sanctions are lifted.”
He also said that nobody can predict the timing of reaching conclusions on the revival of the JCPOA and verification of the lifting of sanctions.
Referring to the temporary agreement between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency on snap inspections within the Additional Protocol to the NPT, which expires in May, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said, “Iran is in no hurry to negotiate, but at the same time does not want protracted talks.”
He continued, “There is always light at the end of the tunnel, but the devil is in the details.”
‘U.S. failed to turn Iran into Venezuela’
Khatibzadeh also said, “The ‘maximum pressure’ policy put in place by former U.S. President Donald Trump has failed, and everyone knows that it did not reach its desired results, despite all the losses suffered by our economy and our people.”
He continued, “Maximum pressure failed, and they failed to stop the peaceful Iranian nuclear program and failed to make the Iranian economy similar to the Venezuelan economy, and here we are.”
He explained why Iran does not care about the U.S. Congress move in continuing the “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran.
“We started to develop the economy and make progress in this regard. Therefore, we do not care about U.S. domestic policy, and if the U.S. Congress wants maximum pressure on us to continue, we are not afraid of that.”
‘Nuclear weapon contrary to Iran’s ideology’
Regarding the nature of the Iranian nuclear program, Khatibzadeh stressed that “Iran’s position has been very clear from the beginning that it does not aspire to work on building a nuclear weapon, and this issue is contrary to Iran’s ideology. That is why Iran has always insisted that its nuclear activities will never be diverted to a weapons program.”
‘Iran, Russia have excellent relations’
On the quality of ties between Tehran and Moscow, the Iranian diplomat said, “We have excellent relations with Moscow, and we have various joint projects and we expect that there will be a draft of various agreements with Russia, and visits have taken place between officials to reach that.”
‘Iran supports inter-Afghan talks’
Khatibzadeh also said that “the security and stability of Afghanistan is the security and stability of Iran”, and therefore what is happening in Afghanistan has always been important for Iran.
Recalling Iran’s support to achieve peace in Afghanistan, the diplomat referred to the Bonn Conference in 2001 in which Iran played a key role in helping establish the government in Afghanistan and helped Afghans to draft their current constitution and promote the rights of various groups, including women, minorities and ethnicities.
He pointed to Iran’s approach to the Taliban, saying “The Taliban can be part of Afghanistan’s future, but not all of Afghanistan’s future” and that is why Iran supports inter-Afghan dialogue.
Regarding a plan by the U.S. to pull out its troops from Afghanistan by September 11, Khatibzadeh said the exit should be done in a responsible way to achieve the desired results. However, he described U.S. policy in Afghanistan as “still vague”.
The spokesman also blamed the current situation in Afghanistan for the wrong policies of the United States and called for a responsible U.S. withdrawal.
‘Referendum is the final solution to Palestine’
In the final part of this virtual conversation, Khatibzadeh was asked several questions by analysts and journalists aware of the issues in Iran and the region.
One question was about the prospects of the disputes between Iran and Israel in which the spokesman said the root of the regional problems lie with the Israeli regime, calling the Israel regime an existential threat to countries and people in the region and a source of terrorism in West Asia.
While insisting that Iran does not recognize the Tel Aviv regime, Khatibzadeh reiterated Iran’s long-held position that the final solution to the Palestinian issue lies in holding a referendum with the participation of all original inhabitants of Palestine to determine their fate. He added that the Zionist regime is the main cause of many bloody wars in the region.