Recognition of Palestine to be raised at right time to bring progress, not further problems to ME

TEHRAN, Jun. 29 (MNA) – Slovenian Ambassador to Iran Kristina Radej underlined that Slovenia as a member of EU will always respect Common Foreign Relation Policy within EU, adding the recognition has to come on a proper time to bring progress not to bring additional tightening of the situation in the Middle East.

Expressing consent over the ties between Slovenia and Iran, especially after the reopening of Slovenian embassy in the Islamic Republic, Radej told Mehr News correspondent that progress is visible primarily in the economy. “In 2017, the value of trade between Slovenia and Iran amounted to €59 million; the Slovenian exports increased by 18 percent, while the growth rate of the total bilateral trade stood at 24 percent, an upward trend compared to 2016,” she noted.

She also underlined the current developments make it possible to establish cooperation in banking and financial operations, which are very important in terms of supporting business in Iran.

Here is the full text of her interview with Mehr News:

What changes have been reported in the level of bilateral ties between Iran and Slovenia, since the reopening of Slovenia’s embassy in Tehran and President Borut Pahor’s visit to Tehran in 2016?

Slovenia was officially recognized by Iran on 14 February 1992. Two countries established diplomatic relations on 9 March 1992. The Slovenian Embassy in Tehran was first opened on April 1993. In July 2011 Islamic Republic of Iran officially opened the Embassy in Ljubljana.

New premises of the Embassy after we temporarily closed the Embassy in March 2013 were inaugurated by President Borut Pahor during his visit to Iran in November 2016. In practice, the Embassy became fully functional after my arrival on May 2017.

Slovenian companies have been in Iran during the worst period of time under sanctions and they found their opportunity on the field which became empty after departure of big business companies.

I handed credentials to the President Rouhani on 20 June 2017. The reopening of the Embassy strengthened the political and economic ties between Slovenia and Iran. The work itself continued when we temporarily closed the Embassy in March 2013, so we did not have to start from the beginning. My appointment as ambassador was mainly dictated by the need for effective continuation of the work based on excellent relations between the two countries.

Progress is visible primarily in the economy, where in 2017 the value of trade between Slovenia and Iran amounted to €59 million. The Slovenian exports increased by 18 percent, while the rate of the total bilateral trade grows by 24 percent, compared to 2016. The value of Slovenian export totalled €54.2 million, exceeding the record value of 2011.

Business collaboration between two countries expanded in May 2016, when Slovenia hosted the 1st meeting of the Working Group on Energy based on the Memorandum of Cooperation in Energy.

In June 2017, Slovenia hosted the 3rd NANOAPP International Conference; attended by the representatives of the Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council (INIC), who held talks at Slovenian faculties and institutes in order to identify possible areas of cooperation in the field of nanotechnology.

In 2017 the value of trade between Slovenia and Iran amounted to €59 million. The Slovenian exports increased by 18 percent, while the rate of the total bilateral trade grows by 24 percent, compared to 2016. The value of Slovenian export totalled €54.2 million, exceeding the record value of 2011.

The next session of the Slovenian-Iranian joint economic commission is scheduled in the fall of 2018; it will be held on the basis of bilateral Agreement on Economic Cooperation.

The activities of the Embassy focuses on various economic segments, primarily on logistics, transport, energy, renewables, ICT, nanotechnology and biotechnology; as well as electro, automotive, and chemical industries. Important fields are also tourism, agriculture, wood processing and pharmaceuticals. Slovenia has an export oriented economy and can present in Iran its comparative advantages and know-how in green technologies, photovoltaic, water management and wider environmental issues.

The current developments make it possible to establish stronger cooperation in banking and financial operations, which are very important for supporting business in Iran.

As ambassador, I’m trying to support companies in negotiating business deals and to co-create favourable conditions for their operations in Iran. I’m very satisfied that the cooperation with the Iranian Embassy in Ljubljana is also excellent.

Since economy is a main route to access macro political goals in development of a country, in what fields do you think Iran and Slovenia can boost cooperation?

In 2017, the value of trade between the two countries amounted to €59 million. The Slovenian exports increased by 18 percent, while the growth rate of the total bilateral trade stood at 24 percent, an upward trend compared to 2016; the value of Slovenian export totalled €54.2 million.

Is any Slovenian official expected to visit Iran in the near future, two years after embassy reopening?

We focused on visits to Iran before reopening the Embassy. In January 2016, the Minister of Economic Development and Technology, Mr Zdravko Počivalšek, visited Iran, accompanied by a large business delegation, and held talks with the highest representatives of several Iranian ministries. Minister Počivalšek signed the Memorandum of Economic Cooperation and Memorandum of Cooperation in energy. 

In November 2016, the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Mr Borut Pahor, paid an official visit to Iran, accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Karl Erjavec, Minister of Economic Development and Technology, Mr Zdravko Počivalšek, and a business delegation of 41 Slovenian companies. During the visit, Slovenia and Iran signed the Agreement on Economic Cooperation, Memorandum of Cooperation in information and communications technology (ICT) and Memorandum on Cooperation in Science. At that time the Gorenjska Banka bank established correspondence relations with two partner banks in Iran.

Slovenia and Iran also maintain regular diplomatic dialogue. The political cooperation between foreign ministries foresees political dialogue in the form of regular consultations at the level of deputy ministers. The latest political consultations were held in Tehran in November 2016 and in December 2015 in Ljubljana. We are trying to facilitate the visit of His Excellency Foreign Minister Zarif to Slovenia and Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araghchi as soon as possible to continue with political consultations at the level of deputy ministers in year end. Slovenia is in the reforming process of the new Government so I presume that visits from the highest level from Slovenia will be postponed.

Diplomatic dialogue and political will are the only tools which will facilitate the conditions for recognition of the State of Palestine.

New Government will form their priorities on foreign relations policy in the future. Usually first visits are dedicated to our neighbouring countries, EU members and Institutions. Working level meetings are in our schedule without any delay.

Slovenia's expected recognition of Palestinian statehood was postponed until after the upcoming general elections. Unlike many other Western democracies, it is Slovenia’s legislative branch, not its executive, which has the last word on foreign policy matters such as recognizing states. Do you think the new Parliament will finally vote for recognition of Palestinian statehood? And if not, did they retreat from their position due to threats of “negative consequences” on Israeli-Slovenian relations?, regarding the fact that President Borut Pahor has said he would only back the recognition of Palestine “in circumstances that would contribute to the solution of its bilateral issues with Israel but not to the worsening of relations.

Regarding the recognition of Palestine, it is not the matter of IF but it is the matter of WHEN.

Slovenia as a member of EU will always respect Common Foreign Relation Policy within EU, of course each of 28 countries has right to independently decide about their own state policy in specific issues.

We have to see the wider picture and we have to do our best to assist in the dialogue which will lead us to peace in the Middle East. We have to pay attention also to other countries in the region. The recognition has to come on a proper time to bring progress not to bring additional tightening of the situation in the Middle East. Diplomatic dialogue and political will are the only tools which will facilitate the conditions for recognition of the State of Palestine.

I wish that EU will be engaged more in Middle East peace process in the future.

With US pullout from JCPOA, will Slovenian companies stay in Tehran, considering that two of them, Duol and Comita, pulled out of Tehran in January this year, after two years in Tehran?

As other EU member states, Slovenia firmly believes that the JCPOA is the key element of the global architecture of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and is important factor of stability in the region. The interest to further deepen the relations is mutual.

Regarding the recognition of Palestine, it is not the matter of IF but it is the matter of WHEN.

Mentioned companies did not leave Iran, they just do not have their own representative in the Economic Representative Office of Slovenian companies here in Iran. The Representative Office is working on a need to set bases. Companies’ representatives are using the premises of the office if they need it in the business project timeframe.

I have to stress that majority of Slovenian companies are working directly with their partners here in Iran and they do not need necessary the Economic Representative Office of Slovenian companies in Tehran. Slovenian companies which are not exposed on US market or US economic system will be more comfortable to do business in Iran in following months.

This week, on Tuesday, we had a meeting with the Iranian partners of Slovenian companies here at the Embassy. We discussed situation on economic field, challenges on a banking area and sharing information how Embassy can assist with their businesses with Slovenia.

Slovenian companies have been in Iran during the worst period of time under sanctions and they found their opportunity on the field which became empty after departure of big business companies. They are small and middle-sized companies and very flexible with adaptation of their business models, they can easily adapt to the changes in the field.

Given the US illegal practices in the field of international relations, do you think the EU still wants to coordinate its policies with the White House, or is it possible for Europe to change its behavior and exit from the US domination?

As mentioned, the relations between Slovenia and Iran are good, and have recently intensified in target segments. Regular political dialogue is held, and economic cooperation is strengthening considerably. As I have already mentioned, EU and Slovenia firmly believes that the JCPOA is the key element of the global architecture of NPT and a core factor of stability in the region and the world.

Current disagreements between US and EU regarding JCPOA and tariffs for certain goods for EU, Canada, China and others will be discussed through dialogue. Regarding tariffs, this is not something which is new; previous US Administration has tried in the past as well. But at the end of the day they all realized that so called "trade wars" and economic pressures are not a benefit for any side.

Open questions will be addressed through dialogue as it should be among longstanding partnerships and alliances. Political information and media dynamics on a daily basis should not be our priority and Slovenia and I as an ambassador are orientated on a longstanding cooperation, international global architecture, and the art of diplomacy.

In conclusion, I would like to stress that the future of the JCPOA and the economic cooperation with European countries does not rest solely with the EU.

At the moment, Iran is primarily focused on requirements towards the EU and other signatories of the JCPOA. But we should know that US withdrawal from the agreement will also affect economies of European countries and other signatories.

Interview by: Lachin Rezaian, Mohammad Ghaderi

News Code 135221

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