Albanian Government Should Enhance Bilateral Ties with Iran
By By Sulejman Tomcini* Ambassador
Albanian Daily News
Published August 17, 2015

As it was announced on July 14, 2015, twelve years after difficult talks, the Iran nuclear deal framework was reached between the Islamic Republic of Iran and a group of world powers: the P5+1 (the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council-the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, and China, plus Germany) and the European Union. According to this framework, Iran will limit its nuclear programs in exchange for the lifting of all nuclear-related economical sanctions which had been put by the US, because of its suspicions that Iran was planning to produce nuclear weapons.

In fact, Iran had declared for a long time that it was not planning to produce nuclear weapons and all its activity on research and production of radioactive fuel aimed at providing the necessary energy for the development of a country with about 80 million inhabitants and a territory of 1,648,195 square kilometers.

It was natural that the signing of the nuclear deal would be interpreted and seen in different ways. The signatories were happy with this achievement and said good words about it. The European Union approved the deal and the UN Security Council unanimously voted in favor of Resolution 2231 to support the outcome of the talks.

But there were some negative and disapproving reactions to the deal as well. The Republicans in the US expressed their views against it. Under such circumstances, President Barack Obama announced that he would use his veto if Congress voted against the deal.

Even some Gulf countries expressed their reservations and opposition because they see Iran as a permanent threat. Israel opposed the agreement in a categorical way and said that it does not recognize it. In order to reassure its allies in the Gulf countries, US Secretary of State John Kerry paid a quick visit to the region. 

After explaining the US stance regarding the Iran nuclear deal and the situation in the region, Kerry told his hosts that Washington would be on their side in case of a possible threat by Iran.

These reactions are natural. The deal is first and foremost a contract through which both sides have won and lost something. On one hand, the P5+1 received a written commitment that Iran will not attempt to produce nuclear weapons, which calms the world public and especially Iran's neighboring countries. On the other hand, Iran received the lifting of the embargo, which had caused difficulties and huge economic losses for many years such as increase of inflation, depreciation of local currency, increase of unemployment, especially among the young, and increased foreign debt.

By signing the agreement, Iran enters the international arena as a strong economic and trade partner. This comes not only because it is a huge market, but also because it is a major producer of oil and natural gas. Iran has the second largest reserve of natural gas in the world and the fourth in regards to petrol, besides other underground assets, including uranium.

It also has a special geostrategic position at the center of Asia and it appears to be the only oasis of stability and calmness in an area that is engulfed by unrest and wars of all kinds. Thanks to this position and stability it enjoys, Iran may play an important role in the stability or instability of the region.

Certainly, one must not forget that Iran is also trying to extend its influence in the region, especially in Gulf area, where it has not hidden its territorial claims even towards the Kingdom of Bahrain, while maintaining a constant tension with almost all Arab countries in this area.

The stance of Teheran towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict draws one's attention as well. Iran has openly aligned itself on the side of Palestinians and against Israel. Not only does it not recognize Israel as a state, but former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad even stated that he was in favor of 'throwing it away in the sea'.

Furthermore, given the fact that Iran is a theocratic Islamic state, which has declared the Shiite sect as its official religion, it has always been on the side of Shiites everywhere in the Middle East. This is clear in Iraq, a country which after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, is in the hands of Shiites who make up the majority of its population.

Iran is also openly supporting the Assad regime in Syria and the Shiite movement of Houthis in Yemen. In cooperation with its Shiite followers in Lebanon, Iran has created there the Party of Allah (Hezbullah) which is a military detachment which serves its goals in the region, especially against Israel. Hezbullah was the cause of several wars with Israel in Southern Lebanon, where it has concentrated its activity. All these have made Iran one of the main geostrategic players in the region of Central Asia, the Persian Gulf and Middle East.

It is being increasingly seen as an important factor in the fight against Sunni terrorism in the Middle East, including the fight against ISIS.

Of course, all these aspects and others which have to do with Iran and its policies have been studied and taken into consideration by the western signatories of the nuclear deal. It seems that profits from cooperation will be greater than hostility and boycott. Thanks to advances in technology and communications, the world is increasingly looking like a small village, where cooperation and harmony are showing their superiority.

It's important not just to understand this situation, but also to work and create conditions for a calm and peaceful development of all the inhabitants of this "village." It's not accidental that right after the signing of the deal, Tehran was visited by many important European delegations. Germany was among the first countries to hurry there, sending its Minister of Economy Sigmar Gabriel on a three-day visit to Tehran, at the head of a group of sixty representatives of big German companies, such as Volkswagen, Siemens, and others.

Teheran was also visited by High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and Foreign Minister of France Laurent Fabius, who held useful talks with the Iranian hosts.

Mogherini announced among other things that the European Union had asked her to find ways which would make it possible for a more cooperative framework between the EU and Iran after the nuclear deal.

Even Italy, China and Russia have expressed their views for an increase of cooperation with Tehran. Meantime, many major Western companies went to Iran in an effort to profit from the new situation.

Without going into too many details, I want to draw attention to the stance of Albania towards these developments and in general, to its bilateral relations with Iran.

Albania has not expressed any views in regards to these developments, even though the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or any of the senior officials should have done so. It's clear that as a small country, Albania cannot play any role in these developments, but it can express its solidarity with the allies and their actions. Given the old traditional relations of the Albanian people with the Iranian people, it can try to use the occasion in order to give a boost to the Albanian-Iranian relations. Iran has not been hostile to Albania in the past. Even when the previous government, in the framework of its supposedly pro-American policies, agreed to allow a group of Iranian Mujahideens, adversaries of the current regime, to settle in Albania, the Iranian Embassy continued its work in Tirana normally, contributing to the sustainment of the traditional relations and friendship.

Iran's Ambassador to Tirana A. Majid Mozafari has never got 'tired' of telling Albanian authorities that more expanded cooperation  between the two countries and people will be beneficial for both sides and there are a lot of possibilities.

Mr. Mozafari told the Editor-in-Chief of Albanian Daily News, Genc Mlloja at a meeting last week that Iran has very good relations with all the western Balkans countries some of which are NATO and EU member countries. "Both countries have interest in developing their mutual relations. Tehran does not want Albania to violate its obligations deriving from membership in the alliances it is part of. But like the other allies of the same alliances Tirana can find fields of cooperation with Iran, especially after the latest developments in the frame of the nuclear deal," he said.

However the Ambassador was hopeful that there will be a breakthrough and the exchanges will start to flourish. Mr. Mozafari was especially interested in an effort of Albania to ease the question of issuance of visas for Iranian businessmen, politicians, and ordinary citizens. According to him, tourism could be a good resource of financial revenues for Albania which is a true tourist attraction. He said that Albanians can get easily visas to travel to Iran, and there are cases when they can get visas at Tehran airport in case the travelers make an announcement beforehand.

The Ambassador admitted that all officials he has met expressed the wish for enhancement of ties, but he did not hide the desire to see a materialization of them. For example, as he said, exchange of visits of delegations of any level could bring a thaw in the relations.

Likewise Mr. Mozafari hailed the talks between Pristina and Belgrade, and Tehran is interested in establishing dialogue with Kosovo authorities.

Another meaningful example of the appreciation of these ties by the Iranians was the issuing of a postage stamp dedicated to the Albanian great poet of National Renaissance, Naim Frasheri.

At a time when the economic crisis has engulfed the Western Balkans region, there is no room for doubts in strengthening economic ties in other fields with Iran. I am sure that the Albanian government will continuously find an open door in its relations with Iran.

* Mr. Sulejman Tomcini has been Ambassador to Egypt and some other countries in the Middle East, and is a well known specialist on Middle East affairs and author of an Albanian-Arab vocabulary 

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