President Rouhani has used his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to seek investment in Iran’s energy sector as part of the revival of its economy.
With sanctions being eased under the interim nuclear deal with the 5+1 Powers, Rouhani said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to engage in constructive cooperation for promoting global energy security, drawing on its vast oil and gas resources.”
Before the speech, Rouhani and Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh had an hour-long private meeting with oil and gas executives, including senior officials of BP, Italy’s Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Saudi Arabia’s Aramco, and France’s Total.
Iranian officials plan further meetings with oil companies in London during the summer, before proposing contracts in September.
Rouhani, maintaining his theme “prudence and moderation” in foreign policy, called for cooperation with all of Iran’s neighbours. However, he did not mention Saudi Arabia — with whom relations have been strained over regional issues, especially the Syrian conflict — by name.
Rouhani also refused, when pressed twice, to include Israel among the states, saying only “all the countries which the Islamic Republic of Iran has recognised”.
As Iran moves from the interim nuclear agreement to pursue of a comprehensive deal with the US and the other 5+1 Powers, Rouhani reiterated, “We never sought and will never seek nuclear weapons. I declare that a nuclear weapon has no place in our security strategy.”
The United States and other Western powers want Tehran to end high-grade uranium enrichment and shut down a heavy-water reactor capable of producing plutonium nuclear fuel under any permanent settlement. Iran rejects these steps.
Rouhani broke no new diplomatic ground in his speech, the second phase of his opening to the international community after his charm offensive took the United Nations by storm last September in New York.
“I hereby announce that one of the theoretical and practical priorities of my government is constructive engagement with the world,” he said.
With Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former intelligence chief and ambassador to the United States, sitting in the audience, Rouhani said Iran sought cooperation “with the littoral states of the Persian Gulf”, but he did not name Saudi Arabia, which has expressed concern about the interim nuclear deal.
In a clear swipe at Riyadh and Qatar, he renewed criticism of countries he did not name which he said were supporting terrorism in Syria, saying this would rebound on them at home.
Iran strongly backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and was shut out of Wednesday’s U.N.-sponsored peace conference on Syria in Montreux, Switzerland, because of its refusal to endorse a framework for a transition from his rule.
Rouhani was due to meet journalists and other business leaders before leaving Davos later on Thursday.
President Rouhani will speak at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday, as he seeks to stabilize an Iran economy damaged by mismanagement and sanctions in recent years.
Rouhani arrived on Wednesday, telling reporters, “Iran’s presence in the Davos meeting will be very effective in expressing the Islamic Republic’s views on economic issues as well as political, regional and international ideas.”
Beyond that rhetoric is the goal of renewing trade and foreign investment, in sectors such as energy. Iran’s oil exports have been halved since 2012, and production and development has been crippled by the withdrawal of overseas firms.
Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh has been meeting representatives of foreign companies and Governments, with a visit to Turkey on Monday, in an attempt to revive investment.
Still, it looks like Rouhani’s impact may be limited — at least for the foreign audience — by the Syrian issue. Iran’s main English-language outlet, Press TV, puts the President aside this morning in favor of four stories about the opening of the Geneva II conference near Davos.
Iran was invited on Sunday to the conference on the Syrian conflict by the United Nations, but the invitation was withdrawn a day later after objections by the Syrian opposition and the US.
Rouhani appeared to dismiss the gathering on Wednesday, telling reporters, “The facts show us that this conference could not be effective in establishing stability in Syria.”
Student Activist Nabavi Given Furlough After 55 Months in Prison
Iranian student activist Zia Nabavi has been released on $168,000 bail for a five-day furlough, after 55 months in prison.
Nabavi was arrested on June 15, 2009, during the protest of millions over the disputed Presidential election three days earlier. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, later reduced to 10 years on appeal, in exile from his native Tehran.
Easing of Sanctions Reduces Price of Imported Cars
The head of the Automobile Showrooms and Dealers Union has pointed to an immediate benefit of the implementation of the interim nuclear agreement, saying the lifting of sanctions on the auto industry have reduced the price of imported cars by 60 million rials (about $2000).
Hassan Zamani Afshar said if the implementation continues, prices will drop even farther.
US Confirms Iranian Expectation of Nuclear Talks in Mid-February
US officials have confirmed Iranian statements that talks on a comprehensive nuclear agreement will begin by mid-February.
The discussions followed November’s interim nuclear deal between Iran and the 5+1 Powers. Implementation of the deal, including suspension of enrichment of 20% uranium and an easing of sanctions on Tehran, began on Monday.
The officials from the State Department and Treasury told Congressional aides that the US and its partners are currently consulting about next steps in the nuclear talks.