Joint Press Conference with Nicolas Schmit and EU Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs and Immigration and Kamal Kharrazi Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran

European Union Presidency
February 15, 2005

Dr Kamal Kharrazi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, visited Luxembourg on 15 February 2005. He was accompanied by Hamid Reza Asefi, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The Iranian delegation held talks with Nicolas Schmit, Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs and Immigration after a brief meeting with Jean Asselborn, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration and current President of the Council of the European Union.

Following their meeting, Nicolas Schmit and Kamal Kharrazi held a joint press conference. Below a full transcript of their statements:

Nicolas Schmit: I first want to inform you that I had to replace my colleague Jean Asselborn, who is at the hospital, but nevertheless, His Excellency the Foreign Minister of Iran was able to meet with Jean Asselborn. There was already a first exchange of views before we continued our exchange of views here in Senningen.

I'm very glad and honoured also to have been able to receive the Foreign Minister of Iran and I can say that we had a very fruitful discussion on a number of topics concerning mainly the relationship between the EU and Iran.

As you know, the EU and Iran have engaged in a very important process of talks and negotiations concerning a very delicate issue, the nuclear issue. And since a first agreement was achieved in November in Paris, these talks have been continued in three working groups, one working group dealing mainly with nuclear issues, the other one dealing with economic and technical issues. So we have discussed about the progress which has taken place in these working groups.

The talks on nuclear issues are conducted by three member states of the EU, supported by the High Representative Javier Solana. These talks are also supported constructively by the EU as such. So it is in a way a very strong signal the EU has given to be able to deal with complicated issues like non-proliferation, the peaceful development of nuclear energy in a very open way and by diplomatic means. It is a very important step.

It is also a great success up to now for the diplomacy of the EU to have been able to open and continue these negotiations with Iran. The negotiations are not yet finished. As I mentioned, we achieved an important step in November but we still have to come to a lasting agreement on these issues. We are aiming at some deadlines that have been set, and we now have to work very hard to come to an agreement.

Beside these nuclear issues we have very much focused on the development of the economic relationship between the EU and Iran. Iran is a very important economic partner, not only because of its significant natural resources but also because of the high economic potential. I think we really want to build a new economic partnership between the EU and Iran. This is a strong element of confidence-building between the EU and Iran. It is an important step that these negotiations have been resumed. I'm confident that we will make progress on this very soon.

Obviously there is a strong linkage between the nuclear issue, the economic issues and a third issue, which we also have discussed, human rights. We have a dialogue on human rights with Iran. As I said before to the Minister, it is a dialogue between friends. We do not have to hide our divergences and we do not have to hide our differences, but it has to be a dialogue with the aim of improving the situation. I think we agreed that this dialogue is an important part of the bilateral relationship between the EU and Iran.

Kamal Kharrazi: Your briefing was very comprehensive and I think I don't have to add anything in that respect. I just want to mention that we also discussed the situation in Iraq, the prospects of development after the elections, the kind of support that my country can give to the Iraqis to overcome [inaudible], the role that Iran has played so far to help the Iraqis to develop, as it has been playing that positive role in the case of Afghanistan.

More than that, we also talked about the regional cooperation which has to be developed in terms of security mechanisms as well as economic [inaudible] ties in that region to strengthen cohesive and coherent relations between the states of that region. So we talked about all of these issues.

I am sure that the EU can play a very important role in that part of the world in persuasion, in helping and in supporting regional initiatives. In that respect, Iran can be the partner of the European Union, not only in terms of economics but also in terms of political and security matters. Therefore, we look toward the relationship with the EU in a comprehensive way. It does not only limit itself to declaration of nuclear technology, but will be extended further to economic cooperation and security cooperation, and therefore we are quite positive, and we are ready to engage further with European countries.

[Question regarding a report from the IAEA that it has no evidence that Iran is producing nuclear weapons.]

Nicolas Schmit: On behalf of the European Union, it is not a question of exerting pressure on Iran. We have engaged in an open dialogue and we know very well that there has been no evidence brought (in) the report you are referring to within the IAEA. So we are building on that. I insisted, and we discussed about this issue, that Iran has accepted controls. I also asked the Minister for the ratification of the additional protocol of the IAEA. So it's a question of dialogue. We have chosen this form of dealing with this issue.

I would clearly make no parallel between Iran on the one hand and North Korea on the other. I think we are going for a durable and long-term agreement on this issue. We have to build confidence on this issue. And I am sure if we achieve that, it is a very strong element in an overall non-proliferation policy, which is very important for the stability of the international community.

[Question regarding the timeframe for an agreement with Iran on the nuclear issue.]

Nicolas Schmit: I think that we have to be optimistic. The deadline is at the end of March. So we have still some weeks at our disposal. Negotiations took place last week and will resume soon.

I am quite optimistic that we will be able to achieve an agreement because I think it would be, as I said before, a very strong signal to the international community that the EU - the three countries representing the EU - and Iran can achieve such an agreement. The momentum for such an agreement is very strong. I am still optimistic that we will achieve that, and we have a strong basis to do so, which is the Paris agreement, but perhaps the Minister could add something.

Kamal Kharrazi: As a matter of fact, we have not lost hope. We are doing our best. Both sides have to be more serious to arrive to a compromise that could be taken as concrete and tangible results by mid-March, which is the end of the three months of negotiations. Still, we have two more months of working groups. By mid-March, we will have a three-committee meeting to evaluate the process. We hope that by that time there will be tangible results.

I believe that both sides have to be more serious. Both sides have to confine themselves to the Paris Agreement refraining from statements that may be provocative and destructive, to have sessions on problems until we come up in March with a final evaluation.

[You said both sides have to be more serious. Could you elaborate on that? Where does the European Union have to be more serious, and where do you look specifically for progress? When you say both sides, where does Iran have to be more serious?]

Kamal Kharrazi: If we base ourselves on the agreement that we reached in Paris, three working groups have been established: one working group on nuclear issues, another working group on the political and security matters, and the third working group on economic and technological matters. We are supposed to work very closely in these three working groups and take practical steps toward coming up with agreements that will bring confidence between the two sides.

On economic cooperation, for example, we have been interested in opening the Iranian market to the European side for investments. In the same time, we are expecting the European side to open its market to the Iranian side and also to transfer technology to Iran, to give us items that we need for our developments. So when it is serious, I mean that they negotiate in a way that will pave the way for practical measures. Otherwise they may sit down and they may talk about generalities without any tangible movement.

On political issues as well, we have been expecting that both sides would engage in deep political negotiations that - as two partners - help each other to defuse the problems, to resolve the crisis.

On the technical and nuclear issue as well, both sides have committed themselves from (the) outset to come up with objective guarantees that Iran would not to divert to a nuclear weapon, and - from the European side - fair guarantees that Iran would be enjoying economic cooperation and transfer of technology in all fields. So both sides have been supposed to talk to each other to come up with this two-guarantee system. It is going on, but still there is some more room to be developed until these two mechanisms will be completely on the table.

We are not pessimistic. We are optimistic. To put it correctly, it means more efforts, more seriousness and more confidence-building to be evaluated as a fruitful and positive process by mid-March. So we have to try hard here to be more serious.