1212 GMT August 19, 2019
“In Iraq, we will be sending a message of regional cooperation. We don’t see Iraq as a place of conflict; we see it as a place of cooperation with regional countries,” said Zarif, who arrived in Iraq on Saturday evening, Press TV reported.
Zarif also said Iran viewed Iraq as “an important pillar of regional security,” without whose cooperation, regional security would be impossible.
“Thus, it is necessary for Iran and Iraq to cooperate, beside the other countries of the region, toward [bringing about] security for the region,” Zarif told Al Forat Network, an Iraqi satellite television network.
He said no regional country had to be excluded from regional decision-making.
“We don’t want Iraq to cut relations with any other country,” Zarif said. “Sadly, it is the Americans who are pressuring Iraq not to have neighborly ties with Iran.”
The Iranian foreign minister also thanked Iraqi people and officials for their “principled stand” in support of Iran and against unilateral US sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Regional talks welcome
Asked about a proposal by Ammar Hakim — the head of Iraq’s National Wisdom Movement (Hikma) — for regional talks among Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, Zarif said Iran welcomed “all proposals for regional cooperation.”
“We have a principle: Regional cooperation should be inclusive and should be targeted against no one; all countries in our region should be involved in such cooperation,” the Iranian foreign minister said.
He explained that by regional countries, he meant Persian Gulf states, as well as countries further afield, such as Egypt and Jordan.
He cited cooperation of Iran, Russia, and Turkey regarding the Syrian peace process in the Kazakh capital of Astana as an example of good regional work.
The Islamic Republic, he stressed, has never held talks with outsiders about the future of the region and has always said that the fate of the region should be determined by the region itself.
Turning to Saudi Arabia, Zarif said in the interview that while Iran had always been ready for dialogue, Riyadh had shown no such willingness.
The foreign minister recalled that he sent multiple messages to Saudi officials, expressing readiness for bilateral and regional cooperation when he took office in 2013, to which they responded, “The region does not concern you!”
“It is now evident whether the region concerns us or not!” Zarif said.
Iran has helped effectively bring an end to the Syrian conflict by offering Damascus military advisory help and has been facilitating a diplomatic end for Syria through cooperation with Turkey and Russia. This is while Saudi Arabia was among the countries that funded anti-Damascus armed groups in an attempt to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
‘Talks with Trump not very useful’
Asked about the possibility of talks with US President Donald Trump, Zarif said dialogue had to be founded on respect, which was lacking on Trump’s part.
Last year, Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of a multilateral deal with Iran. As a party to that deal, Washington had been involved in negotiations that led to the agreement.
“If you do not respect even your own words, one cannot expect you to respect (and uphold) a deal. Therefore, I don’t believe dialogue [with the Trump administration] would be very useful,” Zarif said.
In May, 2018, the US president pulled his country out of the JCPOA, the nuclear deal that was achieved in Vienna in 2015 after years of negotiations among Iran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany).
Trump’s withdrawal was condemned by other parties to the agreement.