Iran is eager to make the best use of the possibilities arising from the nuclear deal with the world powers to enhance its relations with “Islamic” Bangladesh, its foreign minister says.“Bangladesh is an extremely important Islamic country (for Iran),” Mohammad Javad Zarif said at a press briefing in Dhaka on Wednesday at the end of his one-day visit. Once implemented, the July deal will see the decade-old sanctions that crippled the oil and gas-rich Iran’s economy lifted in exchange for long-term curbs on its nuclear programme.
Zarif said he came to Bangladesh within a couple of months of the deal as he felt he should come to explain Bangladesh what happened “because they (Bangladesh) supported us in the course of our struggle to gain our rights”. “So I wanted to make sure I visit the friendly people of Bangladesh and friendly government of Bangladesh. “And also to explore with them possibility how to best use this achievement in order to promote our own bilateral relations for the benefit of our two people.”
During his visit, he met President Md Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali and “reviewed the bilateral relations and ways and means to expand the relations”. He said during those meetings, he expressed his eagerness to develop and enhance the bilateral relations.
“….we can have cooperation in various areas including energy, textiles, manufacturing, industry, science and areas where Iran and Bangladesh have complementarities. We can explore the complementarities for the benefit of our own people.” This was his second round of visits in this region after tours to India and Pakistan in August, after the nuclear deal was clinched in Vienna.
He came to Dhaka from Beijing where he also sought to work closely, once sanctions lifted. Bangladesh foreign ministry said both the president and the prime minister congratulated the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hoseini-Khameini and President Hassan Rouhani as well as the Iranian people on concluding the nuclear deal.
They expressed their optimism that implementation of the agreement would contribute towards “peace, stability and well-being of the peoples in the region and beyond”. They also hoped that the agreement would bring “dynamism” into the Iranian economy and create “new opportunities” for trade and investment for Bangladesh. At the bilateral meeting with his counterpart Mahmood Ali, Zarif reiterated Iran’s commitment to implement the nuclear agreement with the five veto power holders of the UN Security Council – China, France, Russia, the UK and the US – plus Germany.
He sought Bangladesh’s support in this regard, the foreign ministry said. Ali termed the deal “historic and landmark,” and said it proved once again “the paramount importance of dialogue and diplomacy in resolving disputes through the peaceful process”. Zarif at the press briefing said if all went as planned, everything should be ready for the lifting of sanctions by the end of November.
He highlighted the historic linkages between Bangladesh and Iran particularly in language and culture as he sought to develop the relations further. He also stressed on cooperation between the private sectors. Zarif said they would host the next joint economic commission meeting in Iran where Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith would lead Bangladesh side.
“We’ll host a private sector group during the meeting.” The top Iranian diplomat said he also discussed financial arrangement to enable business community to conduct trade and investment as they could not transact money because of “unjustified economic sanctions”. He said following the joint economic cooperation meeting, there would be possibilities to sign trade deal between the countries.
The Iranian foreign minister said they would also host Bangladesh’s energy minister shortly to discuss energy cooperation. “We’ll be discussing with him how Iran can provide energy to Bangladesh. Iran is a reliable source of energy for friendly countries.” He said they were currently working on multilateral cooperation with Pakistan and China for energy cooperation. “Other possibilities can be worked out,” Zarif said, indicating that Bangladesh could also be part of broader cooperation in the energy sector.
He said fighting extremism and violent extremism were also the areas where Bangladesh and Iran could work together. He, however, said there was no relation between Islam and extremism, and that the nuclear deal proved that there was no military solutions to any problem; everything needed to be solved politically. Pointing at Saudi Arabia-led air strikes, he said “unfortunately some of the friends” had illusions that they would solve all problems by crushing the will of the people with some helicopters bought by oil money.
“It’s for the Yemenis to deal with their own problem in Yemen and it is for the Syrians to deal with their problems in Syria,” he asserted. Iran, however, is accused of patronising Shia rebels in the Middle-East.
Zarif left Dhaka at around 8:30pm, agencies report.