The press conference is underway in Tehran with over 200 local and international press covering the event. The press conference comes ahead of the presidential elections, scheduled to be held on May 19th. Rouhani is the incumbent candidate.
The President commenced the press conference by hailing his administration’s various achievments including higher payments, better conditions for farmers, increase of trade balance from - 8.1 at the start of his government to - 2.6 this year, increase of agriculture products and foodstuff from 97 million tons in 2013 to in 95 118,000m tons in 2016, better healthcare and environmental conditions, and more progress in technology, especially in the field of nuclear technology after the implementation of the JCPOA.
To a question about Iran’s stance on the six-year war in Syria and the recent US military aggression in the war-torn country, President Rouhani stressed that the viewpoint of the Islamic Republic from the onset of the conflict in Syria was that other countries should not interfere by sponsoring terrorists. “In my first visit to New York to attend the UNGA meeting, I told EU leaders that backing terrorists now would end up threatening the security of their own respective countries,” Rouhani added. “Iran believed and continues to do so that terrorists gathered from all across the region and beyond in Syria must be eradicated.”
“However, we also believe that certain reforms are necessary to take place in Syria. We recommend elections polls and democracy in Syria as everywhere else in the world,” he stressed.
Rouhani then censured the US for carrying out airstrikes in Syria under a pretext that had no factual basis, adding “during my telephone conversations with President Assad and President Putin, we all agreed that a fact-finding mission is needed to investigate the cause and origin of the use of the chemical weapons in Khan Shaikhoun in Idlib.”
He went on to add, “President Putin said it was easy to find out who was behind the attack. If it turned out that terrorists were behind it, how would the US respond? If terrorists realize that every time they carry out a chemical attack, the US will be prompted to bombard Syria in support of them, what would then become of Syria?”
In regard to a possible repeat of the US military aggression in Syria, and what measures could be taken to prevent it, President Rouhani maintained that the US has never acted according to international norms and regulations, unreasonably considering themselves as the ultimate leader of the world.
He stressed that the US attack was fundamentally a wrong move and in the interest of terrorists; “Another repeat of such an aggression from the US will put the region in a highly dangerous situation. It is up to the Syrian Army to deal a devastating blow to the terrorists and undermine the US ambitions.”
To The Wall Street Journal’s question on Iran’s next move after the US missile attack in Syria, and what measures Iran and Russia have agreed upon in regard to the Syrian conflict following the US attack, President Rouhani stressed that Iran still believes the only viable solution to end the crisis in Syria is a political approach and the progress of peace talks. He expressed regret that the US attack had hurt the process of Syrian peace talks and aided terrorists into thinking they had now an upper hand during the negotiations.
President Rouhani noted that Iran-Russia-Turkey cooperation is focused on the success of Astana peace talks, while Iran-Russia-Syria cooperation is concerned with fighting terrorism on the ground; “During my recent visit to Moscow as well the telephone conversation with President Putin, we agreed on more coordination about the operations in Syria,” he added.
About the nuclear deal and Iran’s promise to roll back its nuclear program that would ‘surprise the world’ in words of AEOI head Salehi, if other side violates the agreement, Rouhani stressed that Iran will not be the first to undermine the deal as the country has been having good nuclear cooperation with other countries thanks to the JCPOA, including China for Arak reactor redesign, Russia for production of stable isotopes in Fordow enrichment plant and fuel, as well as the export of heavy water to a number of countries and import of natural uranium in exchange.
About Iran’s ties with neighboring countries, the President maintained that relations have improved with all neighboring countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkey, and even in the south such as Kuwait and Oman; “Overall, our ties with countries in the region have improved during my administration, except for one or two countries. The poor ties with Saudi Arabia for example was not our decision. Incidents such as the Mina stampede, the execution of Sheikh Nimr, the embassy incident, all prompted an inappropriate response from Saudi Arabia which was angry over its failures in Syria and Yemen.”
“We are ready to improve ties with Saudi Arabia if they are. Hopefully, this year’s Hajj pilgrimage will be a stepping stone in that regard,” he concluded.