1222 GMT February 18, 2020
In a post on his Twitter account, the top Iranian diplomat said he has held “fruitful meetings” with senior Finnish officials to discuss “what EU needs to do to save the JCPOA and protect its interest in freedom of navigation,” Tasnim News Agency reported.
Zarif said he has also shared ideas with the Finnish authorities on “Regional Dialogue Forum and non-aggression pact with CMI”. The Crisis Management Initiative is an independent Finnish peace broker.
Upon his arrival in Finland, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, Zarif said “Finland has also had a plan for Persian Gulf dialogue, which is almost similar to a plan proposed by Iran”.
Finland supports INSTEX
The Iranian foreign minister on Monday said Iran is not interested in talks with Washington, but any mediation should focus on bringing the United States back to the 2015 nuclear deal which it left last year, Reuters reported.
Zarif was speaking after meeting Foreign Affairs Minister Pekka Haavisto, who said Europe was doing its best to salvage the deal.
Haavisto voiced his country’s support for INSTEX, a financial mechanism that the European Union has developed to maintain trade with Iran and bypass the US sanctions.
Before meeting his Finnish counterpart, the Iranian foreign minister met with President of Finland Sauli Niinisto.
Zarif also held talks with Finland’s Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari.
In the gathering, the Finnish minster described his country’s rotating presidency of the European Union as an opportunity for expansion of business and economic cooperation with Iran.
“Finland hopes that economic cooperation between the two countries would increase, and we deeply regret that the US has withdrawn from the JCPOA and that it has had consequences for the Iranian people’s lives,” he said.
"We are worried about the escalation of tensions; however, Finland’s role as the president of the European Union will be constructive in the reduction of tensions,” Ville Skinnari added.
“There are opportunities and grounds for mutual cooperation between the two countries, as in the ICT sector and academic cooperation, and the prospect of growing bilateral ties through poly-technical cooperation between Iran and Finland is bright,” he noted.
Zarif, in turn, said, “Finland, by holding the rotating presidency of the EU, can be helpful in implementing the nuclear deal and normalizing Iran’s trade relations. Also within the framework of the JCPOA, the businesspeople and economic activists have had higher expectations from Europe.”
"The US’ unilateral measures will not be limited to Iran, and have also targeted the other European partners. In order to counter the unilateral measures and mitigate the effects of US economic war against Iran, which affect people directly, there are approaches such as boosting bilateral trade and exercising multilateral interaction in the form of initiatives like the INSTEX,” he added.
Speaking to Iranian reporters upon his arrival in Helsinki on Sunday night, Zarif said that Finland, Sweden and Norway, the countries he was visiting in his tour, are “active on the issues relating to our region.”
Hailing Sweden for hosting the first round of Yemen peace talks, Zarif said Norway is also seeking to hold a conference on Afghanistan.
Zarif is going to visit Norway after Sweden.