Existing Bitterness Can Be Removed

24 October 2013 | 20:21 Code : 1923395 Interview General category
An interview with Mohammad Reza Bahrami, the newly-appointed Iranian ambassador to Afghanistan
Existing Bitterness Can Be Removed

After 6 years, you have again been appointed as Iran’s ambassador to Afghanistan. What developments have, in your opinion, happened in Iran-Afghanistan relations?

First I must point out that it is an honor for me to be trusted by the President and the Foreign Minister with this mission and this adds to my responsibilities. Of course this trust is a strong point for me and I hope that I will be able to be effective in advancing the policies of our country in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is an important neighboring country because we have a common historical and civilizational background. Our relations with Afghanistan have had ups and downs since the independence of this country and the beginning of bilateral relations. But I believe that relations between the two countries have blossomed since 2001. One of the highlights of this period is the political determination of both countries towards the development and strengthening of relations. Both countries have attempted to find a common understanding in bilateral and multilateral issues and the existing opportunities and concerns between them and coordinate their relations along this common understanding.

During the past six years, our relations within the general framework have not changed much; except on new issues which have imposed themselves on these relations. Perhaps some of these issues were unpleasant but we can remove the existing bitterness in our relations with the determinations of the high officials of the two countries and reach the conclusion that the defined path in relations between the two countries is an assured path based on the political determination of both countries to develop and strengthen relations.

During the past several decades, due to civil war and other crises, Afghanistan has been one of the centers of insecurity in the region. Therefore, one of the important issues in Afghanistan is its security. Considering the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan in 2014, how would you assess the security situation in this country?

I believe that security is the most important and key issue in Afghanistan. From this aspect, security in Afghanistan can even be preferred to its development. I mean that security is the primary issue in relation to stability in Afghanistan. The immediate issue of security in Afghanistan and the instability which exists in this country are related to two issues; one is the behavior of the rebel groups in this country and which are the cause of insecurity and instability in Afghanistan and the other is the presence of foreign forces which is based as the root of the continued insecurity. That is why 2014 is very significant for Afghanistan and the countries of the region because, based on the statements made by the Afghan officials and the foreign countries present in Afghanistan, they are supposed to leave this country. The important issue here is the possibility of the continuation of the presence of part of the foreign forces in Afghanistan which is being defined within the framework of the security agreement that is going to be signed between the US and Afghanistan. From this aspect, both the security of Afghanistan and the process of dealing with this issue in a way that the insecurities in this country would be reduced after 2014 are important. It means that mechanisms should be designed so that the insecurities would be reduced.

The security agreement between the US and Afghanistan is one of the important issues in relations between Iran and Afghanistan. What is Iran’s view in this regard?

This issue can be looked at from two aspects; legal and political. The Islamic Republic of Iran does not, in principle, agree with the presence of foreign forces in the Islamic countries and does not consider this presence in line with strengthening stability and security. This is the general view of the Islamic Republic of Iran about Afghanistan. Based on the positions of the Afghan officials, the traditional parliament of Afghanistan is supposed to decide on this matter. While maintaining our general position with regard to our opposition to the continuation of the presence of foreign forces in all countries, including Afghanistan, we respect, in general, the decisions of the Afghan officials and the ruling institutions of this country.

One of the sensitive issues for Iran is that this agreement will pave the way for the continuation of the presence of the Americans within the framework of military bases. How do we look at this issue? It is obvious that we are willing to have transparent and sustainable relations with Afghanistan and attempt to remove the points of ambiguity in relations through consultations and dialogue. The issue of fighting against the rebels is proposed by the Afghan officials as a key element for the continuation of the presence of foreign forces. On the other hand, the continuation of their presence might create concerns for the countries of the region. The removal of these concerns is the issue which must be discussed between the Afghan officials and the neighboring countries including the Islamic Republic of Iran. We believe that everybody should help so that Afghanistan would not be the scene for competition and the common sentiment that was created during the first years of the new era in Afghanistan, particularly in the area of politics and economy and the reconstruction of Afghanistan, must again be strengthened and continued. One of the important issues is how to remove these concerns. These concerns can be removed through negotiations between the officials of Iran, Afghanistan and other countries. It must be noted that in order to strengthen stability and security and reduce the insecurities, we must not seek solutions which would result in the continuation of insecurities. This is an important point which must be considered by all parties that are concerned about the future of Afghanistan.

Recently, several candidates have registered for the Afghan presidential election. What is your assessment of this election and what is Iran’s position in this regard?

In general, the issue of holding elections and the participation of the people is important for us as a neighboring country and ally of Afghanistan and we will respect the people’s choice. We would like to see a dynamic election with a high level of participation which would lead to national convergence in this country. If I want to look at the details of this issue, I must say that when I saw the list of the candidates, several points came to my mind. One is that the combination of the candidates and their deputies shows the defeat of the ethnic issue in Afghanistan, meaning that the basis of behavior with regard to important candidates was not necessarily an ethnic one. The other point is that there have even been new changes in the political positions of different candidates. This means that there have been coalitions for the formation of the future government which have a totally different nature than before. This difference can even be observed with regard to those affiliated with the Mujahidin who have nominated themselves. This would mean that until now that the candidates have not yet been approved, the election in Afghanistan will not be bipolar, and thus, predicting the outcome would not be very easy. This is a positive point with regard to the election in this country. An optimistic look at this issue indicates that former boundaries have been bypassed; boundaries which were mainly based on ethnic and linguistic differences. This can be a positive point. The holding of elections helps Afghanistan and brings it closer to the concept of a nation-state and distances it from the previous boundaries. I consider this a positive point and I hope that the results of the elections help to strengthen this concept.

tags: Afghanistan iran

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