Iran, P5+1 Really Want to Reach a Nuclear Agreement

Monday, July 13, 2015

Exclusive Interview with Sebastian Kurz
By: Sara Massoumi

Negotiators from Iran and the P5+1 group of countries - the United Sated, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany - are working to reach a comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program in the Austrian city of Vienna. The two sides have agreed to continue talks to strike a final deal by July 7. The negotiations are aimed at putting an end to the 13-year Western dispute with Tehran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Etemad Persian daily journalist, Sara Massoumi has interviewed with Sebastian Kurz, Austria's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration about ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna, security of the talks, political and economic cooperation with Iran after the deal, fighting against terrorism (ISIS) and Iran's relations with EU and US. Kurz (born 27 August 1986) is an Austrian politician, who has been Austria's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration since 2013. He is a member of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP). The following is the full transcript of the interview which has been done in Austria's Foreign Ministry in Vienna:

Q: As the first question, we want to start with Vienna. We used to know Vienna as the land of music and art. But nowadays Iranians look at Vienna as the land of political openness and nuclear negotiation after thirteen years. Do you think that this image can play a role in improving political, economical, and also cultural cooperation between Iran and your country? 

A: Of course Austria is not only famous for culture and music. We have always been a good place for dialogue and negotiations and for international conferences; we are proud to host these Iran talks here in Vienna. Of course we are interested in an agreement, because we think that it would not only bring stability and security to the region and to the rest of the world, but also it would bring new chances for a better cooperation with Iran and the rest of the world.

Q: You have visited Mr. Zarif so many times. What do you think about the Iranian nuclear team? And also do you think that this government is different from the previous government in Iran? Does the way Mr. Zarif talks to the world affect the nuclear talks too?

A: Well I like him. He is a very experienced minister. I think he is a very good negotiator and he knows Iran well. But  he also knows the West; he lived for quite a long time in the US. For me it’s always extremely interesting to discuss with him not only about the progress of the Iran talks, but also general questions of foreign affairs.

Q: In the beginning of this round of negotiations there were some rumors about Israel spying on the talks, especially Coburg and some other hotels in Europe. What has your country done to secure these talks this time and do you think you've been successful?

A: Security is always an issue, not only during the Iran talks. But especially during these talks we did our best not only to have a positive atmosphere for the talks, but also to guarantee security and we hope that our preparations were successful.

Q: How do you evaluate the ongoing process of nuclear talks? Do you think that they are going to reach a deal?

A: Well we are not negotiators so we only have the information.

Q: Do you see the political willingness in both sides?

A: From the meetings with ministers who are negotiating. I think not only what they say gives hope, But it's also A positive signal how much time all these ministers are spending here in Vienna. It shows that they really want to reach an agreement. I think it is a huge chance and I hope that it will be possible.

I think change is possible. Just to give you a recent example: a few days ago John Kerry announced in Vienna that he will pay a visit to Cuba as the first foreign minister of the US after more than fifty years. This is a good example that change is possible and that in the long run enemies can become friends. So I hope that these Iran talks will be successful and that we will reach an agreement here in Vienna.

Q: Do you think European countries will welcome the closeness of US and Iran? In all these three decades Iran and EU countries have enjoyed strong relationship. We have had political and economical cooperation; but Iran did not have any contact with the US. Maybe after these deal, we will be witnessing the beginning of warmer relations between Tehran and Washington. Do you think EU countries will welcome that?

A: Of course. Peace, security and stability is in our interest. Reaching an agreement and ending the sanctions would in my opinion be helpful to reach these goals.

Q: Do you think that this deal is going to affect EU and Iran relations, for example in fighting terrorism or fighting ISIS?

A: It is of course possible that in the long run there will be closer cooperation in all areas, but the first necessary step is to reach this agreement. Then we will see. But on an economic level, for example, there is a huge potential after the sanctions. But again this will only be possible if we reach an agreement.

Q: Does your country have any plans to further economical cooperation with Iran after the nuclear deal?

A: After the nuclear deal, yes.

Q: What does your country as an EU member do for fighting ISIS?

A: We are active on this issue. In the European Union we have adopted police measures against foreign fighters. The truth is that there are more than 5000 foreign terrorist fighters from the European Union in Iraq, Syria and Lybia fighting for Da'esh who left the EU. So we do quite a lot. In Austria, we have also adopted police measures to fight these terrorists, but we are also focussing on prevention work so that not more and more young people get in contact with these terrorists. Further more we are a member of the international coalition against the ISIL. The third point is that we are very active and try to support the victims of Da'esh with humanitarian aid. We do our best in Iraq but also in other countries in the region.

Q: In recent years, especially when it came to Iran we witnessed that EU countries, for example Germany, France and Britain, followed US in every step, especially when they wanted to impose sanctions on Iran. These sanctions have harmed Iranian ordinary people, not the nuclear industry. Do you think that after the nuclear deal we are going to witness a more independent approach from EU countries?

A: The European Union is independent, but there are also areas where we have similar interests with other partners like the US. In this case, we all have the common interest that there is no chance for an atomic bomb in Iran. That is the reason why not only the EU and the US, but also Russia and China, are on the same side of the table during the current negotiations.

Q: Do you think that imposing sanctions on the Iranian people is fair when after 2003 no IAEA report declared that Iran has any nuclear activity with military dimensions?

A: In all those years people suffered deeply because of these sanctions. That is one of the reasons why we hope so much that it will be possible to reach an agreement; that is the reason why we are hosting these talks here in Vienna in order to be supportive and create a positive atmosphere for these negotiations. But in the end, the negotiators have to reach an agreement.

Thank you very much.

Key Words: Iran, P5+1, Nuclear Agreement, Political, Economical, Cultural Cooperation, Political Willingness, EU, US, Terrorism, ISIS, IAEA, Kurz

*Photo Credit: Wikipedia