Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says certain countries that “talk a lot” about fighting terrorism and extremism should be engaged seriously in the battle against the scourges.
“The international community will need to learn, particularly those who talk a lot about fighting extremism [and] terrorism,... that they need to be serious, they need to act rather than simply take political decisions in dealing with that,” Zarif told Russia's TASS news agency in an interview published on Friday.
The Iranian foreign minister made the remarks in response to a question by the Russian news agency about the lessons that can be learnt from the two countries' common experience in fighting terrorism in Syria.
“With the sacrifice of the Syrian people [and] the bravery of the Syrian Armed Forces, we have been able to defeat in many respects the advances of Daesh and al-Nusra Front,” Zarif said.
Iran maintains military advisers in Syria, where the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is fighting an array of foreign-backed militants, including the Daesh terrorist group and al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, al-Nusra Front. The Iranian advisory presence comes as part of defense agreements reached between the governments of Iran and Syria. Iran does not have boots on the ground in the Arab country.
For the past seven months, Russia, another Syrian ally, has been conducting an aerial campaign in Syria against terrorist groups, which have been wreaking havoc in the country since 2011.
With allied help, the Syrian government has been able to take back militant-held areas, including recently the ancient city of Palmyra, which had been run over by Daesh back in May 2015.
US occupation of Iraq brought terror to region
He also said that the countries in the Middle East and Central Asia are faced with "extremism and terrorism" that emanated from "years of occupation of Iraq" by the US.
The US invaded Iraq in March 2003 under the pretext of finding weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons, however, were ever found in Iraq. The invasion plunged Iraq into chaos, resulting in years of deadly violence and the rise of terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, which was a precursor of Daesh.
Regarding the bilateral relations between Tehran and Moscow, Zarif described Russia as an “important neighbor” of Iran, saying that the two sides have strong political, economic, intelligence and defense ties.
“We will remain a friend of Russia,… and because of our common interests," we will further enhance our relations in the course of years to come.
“We believe our relations with the rest of the world will never undermine our relations with Russia because we value our relations with Russia as an extremely important strategic partnership.”
Responding to a question about the recent conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the Iranian minister called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to settle the issue through political talks.
“We are very happy to see an end to hostilities right now and cessation of hostilities or a ceasefire. We hope this would be the prelude to serious negotiations in order to resolve this issue,” Zarif noted.
“Armenia as a neighbor and Azerbaijan as a close friend of Iran need to have good relations," he stressed, adding, "We support all efforts aimed at resolving this problem.”
Nagorno-Karabakh is a landlocked territory located in Azerbaijan but claimed by local ethnic Armenian militia. At least 75 people have reportedly been killed since April 1, when fighting broke out over the region.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Iranian diplomacy chief expressed satisfaction with the results of a Thursday meeting with his Azeri and Russian counterparts Elmar Mammadyarov and Sergei Lavrov in the Azeri capital Baku.
“This was a very good first step; there is agreement on almost every issue. And our cooperation will not be limited to transit and economic issues but also to security issues, to intelligence cooperation, counter-terrorism and in narcotics,” Zarif said.
Russia's 'instrumental' role in JCPOA
The top diplomat, in conclusion, thanked the Russian government and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the “instrumental” role they played during Iran’s nuclear negotiations with the P5+1 group of countries, which resulted in a landmark agreement.
“The role of Russia in reaching that nuclear agreement was instrumental, and we very much appreciate the role Sergei Lavrov himself and the Russian government played in this process,” Zarif noted.
Iran and the P5+1 — the United States, Britain, France, China, and Russia plus Germany — finalized the nuclear agreement, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in Vienna, Austria, on July 14, 2015. They started to implement the agreement on January 16.