Iran moves to improve relations with the West

Iran wants to improve bilateral relations with the United States and other Western powers, president Hassan Rouhani said in an editorial published in a German newspaper, broaching an issue he has so far avoided since he took office.

Rouhani won a landslide election victory in June promising a policy of engagement with the West and has had regular diplomatic contacts with the United States, but they have been limited to negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

“We want to rebuild and improve our relations to European and North American countries on a basis of mutual respect,” he wrote in a contribution for the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

“We are striving to avoid new burdens on relations between Iran and the United States and also to remove the tensions that we have inherited,” said Rouhani, who has promised to reduce Tehran’s isolation and to win an easing of sanctions.

Iran cannot forget everything that has affected relations with the United States over the last 60 years, he said, but added: “We must now concentrate on the present and orientate ourselves towards the future.”

Rouhani’s diplomatic pragmatism has already resulted in significant progress. While in New York for the United Nations General Assembly in September, Rouhani held an historic telephone call with Barack Obama, the first time the presidents of the two nations have spoken in three decades.

Iranian officials subsequently emphasised the call was to support a diplomatic resolution of Iran’s nuclear programme and did not concern direct bilateral ties. Two months later Iran and world powers signed an interim deal to curb part of Iran’s nuclear activities in return for some sanctions relief.

Rouhani, a former nuclear negotiator, said he was doing whatever he could to end tensions over Tehran’s nuclear activities, which have raised concerns in the West that Iran is seeking to develop an atomic weapons capability.

Iranian officials have denied such suggestions.

“We have never even considered the option of acquiring nuclear weapons,” Rouhani said. “We’ll never give up our right to profit from nuclear energy. But we are working towards removing all doubts and answer all reasonable questions about our programme.”


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