Iran, Algeria Enjoy Good Potential to Expand Ties

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Mahmoud Mohammadi
Iran's Former Ambassador to Algeria

November 10 is the 61st anniversary of the revolution as well as independence and freedom-seeking struggles of the Algerian people, which became victorious after great suffering on July 7, 1961. The victory of the revolution was followed by the pride and honor of a long struggle to revive religious, national and cultural identity of this nation, which was under tyranny of the French colonialism, and brought great joy both to Algerian people and other Muslim and freedom-seeking people of the world.

In the wake of its independence, Algeria was faced with a host of developments and ups and downs both at domestic and international levels, the most important of which can be considered as launching a cultural revolution following its political independence in order to revive its Islamic-Arabic identity, which had drastically changed under 130 years of the French colonialism and had almost gone distinct.

The main driving force behind the Algerian revolution was patriotic and fighter women and men, which carried Algeria’s historic revolution to fruition through national unity and on the strength of the teachings of religious leaders, from Emir Abdelkader to Abdelhamid Ben Badis, and other figures of the Association of Algerian Muslim Ulema.

The Iranian nation sympathized with the Algerian nation throughout the period of colonialism and following its independence, and this issue made the Iranian government recognize the independence and national government of Algeria after its independence was officially announced in 1962. Subsequently, Iran opened its embassy in Algiers in 1964. By following a policy of nonalignment with world powers, the new Algerian leaders tried to establish balanced relations with other countries, including Iran, and became a role model for seeking freedom and gaining independence by other oppressed nations that suffered from colonialism. From this viewpoint, both before the Islamic Revolution and throughout the struggles of the Iranian nation, and after the victory of the Islamic Revolution led by the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, Algerian people were on the side of the Iranian nation and supported the efforts of Iranians to reclaim their rights, freedom and independence, and that trend has continued up to the present day.

For example, in 1975, Algeria played a decisive role in putting an end to border disputes between Iran and Iraq and catalyzed the conclusion of the famous Algiers Agreement between Iran's former Shah and Iraq’s former dictator, Saddam Hussein. In another instance, Algiers played a fundamental role in the settlement of disputes between Iran and the United States for the release of American hostages in Tehran, which led to the 1981 Claims Settlement Declaration. The country also played a great mediatory role between Iran and Iraq in the course of the Iraqi imposed war, which culminated in the death of Algerian foreign minister by Iraqi missiles, thus, proving Algeria’s friendship with the Iranian nation and the Islamic Revolution.

Following parliamentary elections in Algeria in 1992, which led to bloody clashes in the country, due to seditious acts by some Arab countries that opposed the Islamic Revolution in Iran, misunderstandings escalated between Algeria and the Islamic Republic of Iran, as a result of which Algiers cut political relations with Tehran. However, following the election of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, one of the revolutionary figures of Algeria, as the country’s president, the attitudes of both countries gradually changed toward each other. Subsequently, presidents of the two countries met on September 8, 2000, on the sidelines of the millennium summit of the United Nations in New York, and declared full resumption of relations between the two countries.

Under Abdelaziz Bouteflika as president, Algeria underwent remarkable developments in such areas as culture, security, and health care in addition to economic development and improvement of the economic situation, and was among the most stable countries in the region. The realistic and revolutionary insight and attitude of Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his good command of political issues of the world helped him establish good and balanced relations with the world. He looked upon Algeria’s relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran as relations between two revolutionary countries where independence and freedom and commitment to Islam were norms of political governance. For this purpose, the tenure of Bouteflika can be considered as a period of conformity with the revolutionary and independence-seeking political thought in the two countries’ relations. After diplomatic missions of the two countries were opened in each other’s soil, the pace of the improvement of bilateral relations picked up remarkably and political relations between two countries were greatly expanded. During this period, high-ranking officials as well as various political and economic delegations exchanged mutual visits while joint commissions were set up between the two countries in order to further cement relations between Tehran and Algiers.

Deadlocks and challenges in Iran's foreign relations, including due to heavy sanctions imposed on the country, also affected relations between Iran and Algeria as a result of which Iran's foreign policy strategies for the expansion of economic cooperation with other countries, including Algeria, failed to bear fruit. Of course, cumbersome bureaucratic red tape and slow decision-making systems in both countries as well as the priority that Algeria gave to addressing its domestic issues as a result of regional developments and unrest in bilateral trade in addition to the security crisis resulting from alterations and developments in Algeria’s neighboring countries and spread of terrorism also played their roles in preventing further expansion of economic relations between the two sides.

At present, after the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [(JCPOA) between Iran and the six world powers] and the subsequent removal of sanctions, especially on Iran's banks, the second session of the two countries joint commission is slated to be held in Algeria attended by Iran's first vice president. This commission is important in that Tehran is a focus of attention for big international companies, and Algeria has offered its categorical support for Iran's peaceful use of nuclear energy during past years, calling for an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 countries and the removal of sanctions imposed on Iran as a prelude to improvement of bilateral ties.

At present, the way is paved for bringing about a spurt in economic relations between the two countries, provided that the Islamic Republic of Iran learns a lesson from lost opportunities and takes part in the Algiers meeting with a feasible plan and delegates that would represent the country’s state-run and private sectors. In this way, it would be able to make up for the delay and stagnation in development of economic relations, which was a result of the past slow performance of the country and imposition of sanctions, and will fulfill the promises that it gives in due time.

On the other hand, political will exists at the highest levels of the two countries to expand relations, especially in the economic field. However, the expectations of the two countries’ high-ranking officials, especially those of President Bouteflika for development of relations with Iran have not been met in a suitable manner and this commission can bring about suitable development proportionate to potential and needs of the two countries in future relations, if the two sides agree on the implementation of a number of joint ventures.

The Islamic Republic of Iran enjoys adequate scientific, technical and engineering potential and capability to help expand exports and, as such, expects economic relations between the two countries to improve at a more rapid pace. However, realization of this goal depends on changing the traditional trend of bilateral trade and giving priority to joint investment and transfer of technical and engineering know-how in parallel to signing more bilateral and multilateral contracts with Algeria and putting more emphasis on follow-up mechanisms in both countries. Of course, it must not be forgotten that conditions for competition in the Algerian market are tough and the obstructionist efforts as well as deadlocks created by some Western and Arab states and traditional rivals add to that difficulty. However, some Iranian companies that work in Algeria have already proven that they can work even under difficult conditions of sanctions. If instead of companies that lack any record of international activities, famous Iranian companies and those with international ranking in such fields as housing, dams and water resources, power generation, and gas installations, including Caisson, Didas Construction Co., MAPNA Group, and Armeno Co., which are source of political credit for Iran, took part in the joint commission session, it would boost the effect of the two countries’ political will on economic relations. Such a state of affairs will also meet the two countries’ needs and expectations of their officials.

Key Words: Iran, Algeria, Good Potential, Anniversary of Revolution, Algiers Agreement, Iraq, Deadlocks, Challenges, Bilateral Trade, Arab Countries, Economic Relations, Iran's Foreign Policy, Mohammadi

Source: Iran Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

*Photo Credit: Fars News