Consequences of Iran's Position on Ukraine Crisis

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ali Matinfar
Expert on International Issues

After Iran's nuclear talks with the member states of P5+1 group of world powers, the ongoing crisis in Ukraine can be considered as the second most important international development with which Iran's foreign diplomacy will have to deal during the new Iranian calendar year (started March 21, 2014). The spokeswoman of Iran's Foreign Ministry [Marziyeh Afkham] has already noted that Iran's basic position is support for a peaceful solution for the Ukraine crisis without any form of foreign intervention. Her remarks show that Iran firmly believes that this issue is directly related to the governments of Russia and Ukraine, has no solution outside this framework, and any possible solution should be necessarily endorsed by both Russians and Ukrainians.

Some analysts studying the current crisis in the Eastern European country maintain that it is a symbol of new confrontations between the East (represented by Russia) and the West (represented by the United States). They believe that the crisis started following victory of the Russia’s supporters in Ukraine’s presidential elections and reached its acme following the fall of the country’s government. After the Ukrainian government collapsed, the people in the Crimean Peninsula took part in a referendum in which the majority of the participants voted for the Crimea region to break away from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Following these developments, some countries which were allies of the West, declared their support for the new Ukrainian government and its Western-minded authorities. They also slammed Russia’s measure for annexing Crimea, announcing it to be totally at odds with the international law. Some other countries, including China, India and member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States have taken ambiguous positions on this issue or remained totally silent.

At the height of the crisis in Ukraine, the Islamic Republic’s Foreign Minister [Mohammad Javad] Zarif met with his Ukrainian counterpart on the sidelines of Munich Security Conference. During the meeting, without entering into the details of the domestic crisis in Ukraine, Zarif discussed with his Ukrainian counterpart the internal situation in the country. The two sides also stressed the need to further develop relations and cooperation between Iran and Ukraine and called for holding regular sessions of Iran-Ukraine common economic commission.

On the other hand, one of the most important steps taken by the Islamic Republic of Iran during the crisis in Ukraine was negotiations between Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and Russian Federation’s President Vladimir Putin, which took place during a phone conversation.

This issue first elicited criticism from some analysts of foreign policy matters. However, after the contents of the phone call between Iranian and Russian presidents was made public, it was revealed that the two sides had put the highest emphasis on the promotion of bilateral political and economic relations, resolution of Iran's nuclear issue, and achieving a comprehensive agreement over Iran's nuclear energy program through negotiations. The revelation dispelled incorrect interpretations of the two presidents’ conversation and proved that Dr. Rouhani gives the highest priority to protecting national interests of Iran.

Under the existing critical conditions, Iran's calculated position on Ukraine crisis, including during President Rouhani’s talks with Putin have sent right messages to both Russia and the West, especially the United States. The first message was for Russia telling Moscow that the most important issue for the Islamic Republic is its own national interest and security. Therefore, the fact that the Iranian president largely slurred over the Ukraine crisis in his talks with Putin was aimed to mean that Iran neither condemns, nor supports the crisis and parties involved in it and will not take any position for or against either side. Secondly, the Islamic Republic sent a message to the West by telling Western states that Iran is an independent country and decisions that it makes are totally based on the country’s national interests and security. As a result, it neither takes sides with the parties involved in Ukraine crisis, nor stands in their face. The third message implied by Iran was that the West should draw a clear line between Iran's peaceful nuclear energy program and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Otherwise, Iran may choose to further develop its relations with Russia and become more inclined toward Moscow.

Iran's positive approach to crisis in Ukraine which can be rightfully described as positive impartiality has even prompted Ukraine’s ambassador to Tehran to react to the Islamic Republic's position. The Ukrainian envoy noted during an interview that Russia has most probably urged Iran to remain silent on Ukraine crisis.

On the whole, it is noteworthy that Iran's position on the crisis in Ukraine cannot be considered a passive position, but one which stems from collective wisdom of the Iranian officials and is a totally realistic position. Realism in foreign policy was, in fact, the missing link in Iran's foreign policy during the past years. Continuation of this approach combined with rational treatment of Iran's policy by the West and Russia, which would prove their goodwill, can have many positive consequences for the country.

Key Words: Iran's Position, Ukraine Crisis, Russia, Crimean Peninsula, Iran's Nuclear Program, Positive Impartiality, Realistic Position, Matinfar

Source: Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies (MERC)
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

*Photo Credit: Kiev Ukraine News Blog

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