Iranian Ambassador to the Holy See Hopes For Peace Through Dialogue (Part 1)

In An Exclusive Interview with ZENIT, Mohammad Taher Rabbani, Iranian Ambassador to the Vatican, Talks about Inter-Religious Dialogue and Irans Agreement in Geneva on Its Nuclear Program

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Last November 24, the world breathed a sigh of relief. In the course of an impassioned night in Geneva, Iran and the countries of the Group 5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, France, Great Britain and Germany) reached an agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program. Iran has committed itself to limit the enrichment of uranium within 5% and authorized the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect its nuclear sites. In return, it received the assurance of the suspension of the sanctions for six months.

Of course, a negotiation of such importance is not exhausted with a, though significant, shaking of hands between Heads of State. However, the gesture and the signing of the Agreement already represents a step forward that removes the world from the disastrous hypothesis of aggression to Iran. Yet, up to a few months ago, distinguished analysts and political scientists upheld with certainty that a joint attack of the United States and Israel to the damage of Iran was an inevitable scenario, while describing the negotiations between Tehran and the Group 5 + 1 as “empty academic exercises of diplomacy.”

The facts have proven them wrong, demonstrating that dialogue can also smooth out crises that are apparently irresolvable and bring different cultures closer. The solid diplomatic relations that exist profitably between the Holy See and the Islamic Republic of Iran constitute a valid example in this sense, sublimated by the fact that the accredited Iranian diplomatic personnel beyond the Tiber is the second largest in terms of size.

ZENIT met in an exclusive interview with Ambassador Mohammad Taher Rabbani, who presented his Credential Letters last June. In the following interview we spoke with him about the Geneva Agreement and inter-religious dialogue.

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ZENIT: Your President, Hassan Rohani, said that “threats cannot bring any fruit,” and he signed an historic agreement on the nuclear program. What can you tell us regarding this? Can you explain to us what it is about?

Ambassador Rabbani: In the name of the clement and merciful God, I thank you for having come to us as a guest in this Christmas period. My wish is that next year will be a year of peace for the whole world.

As you know, Iran is one of the signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; consequently, it is a right of hers to make a peaceful use of nuclear energy. Moreover, this Treaty puts no limit on the peaceful use of nuclear energy as written expressly in Article 4. Therefore, Iran is acting on the basis of the rules of the International Atomic Energy Agency and – I add – on the basis of our religious teachings, which reject the use of nuclear arms. In this connection, it is useful to recall that, in 2012 our Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa that prohibits the production, stocking and use of nuclear arms. This right was confirmed in the recent Geneva Agreement. Therefore, after ten years of meetings, the six world powers of the Group 5+1 have accepted and signed Iran’s right to continue to enrich uranium up to 5% in its territory. From a political point of view, this Agreement is of enormous importance for Iran, because finally it made the logic of dialogue for peace prevail over the logic of violence and military intervention. This Agreement, then, provides for some of the banking sanctions to be suppressed, the difficulties regarding the insurance of oil vessels and the transfer of money from the sale of oil. Iran is committed for six months to suspend the activity of enrichment of uranium; our hope is that the West will make use of this period to give trust to Iran and renew relations. What happened in Geneva has demonstrated that agreements are established on the basis of mutual respect and not on the basis of sanctions.

ZENIT: What damages have the sanctions imposed on your country caused the population? To what degree do you foresee that they will be reduced at the end of six months of suspension of nuclear activity?

Ambassador Rabbani: I must say first of all that these iniquitous embargoes, if on one hand they have damaged us, on the other they offered us advantages. First among all was the reinforcement of the bond between the Government and the Iranian people. The great Iranian people responded forcefully to these illicit sanctions, even if they suffered enormous damages. I give an example that the West, which calls itself a defender of human rights, must always impede: some persons affected by grave illnesses are in need of receiving particular medicines that, however, because of the embargo, they could not receive. The great Iranian people has always been beaten, however, to affirm their right, there are the testimonies of many young scholars who were killed by mercenaries of enemy regimes. Episodes that did not discourage the Iranians, and this was seen during the last presidential elections, which saw the participation of the great majority of voters.

My expectation is that in future we will be able to come to a definitive agreement. These six months represent the right occasion to finally resolve the nuclear question. With the stipulation of the final and global agreement after the aforesaid six months, all the sanctions imposed by the United Nations Organization and the unilateral ones imposed by America and by the West will be eliminated.

ZENIT: In what way could the Holy See and Pope Francis help this peace process?

Ambassador Rabbani: Either the Holy See, as a religious institution that guides the Catholic Church, or His Holiness, Pope Francis, can propose a diplomacy geared to attaining peace. Justice, peace and development in the addresses of Pope Francis and in those of Ayatollah Khamenei illuminate our life to reach a collaboration that I would describe as multilateral religious diplomacy. On the other hand, during an address regarding true diplomacy in the teachings of the monotheist religions, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, described diplomacy as “the art of hope.” In my opinion, this vision must be promoted in the world, because today we are living a critical situation which can only be resolved by a diplomacy that gives hope. This type of diplomacy also belongs to the political program of President Rohani.

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Part 2 will be published on Tuesday, December 24th

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Federico Cenci

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