Iran and EU Following Geneva 3 Talks

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dr. Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh, Executive Editor of Iran Review
Behzad Khoshandam, PhD Student in International Relations

Active ImageApart from individual roles played by specific countries during Iran’s negotiations with 5+1 on December 5-6, 2010, which are known as Geneva 3, the European Union played an important part as an international institution. The intermediary role played by the EU in finding peaceful solution to the nuclear crisis, especially during the preceding year, has led to on-and-off diplomatic measures aimed at solving the problem and, in some cases, has led to new and effective proposals and solutions.

The EU is still playing a crucial role in the management of the nuclear crisis following official negotiations in Geneva. Issues which may be considered by Iran and the EU in order to improve bilateral relations and increase effective interactions until a final solution to the nuclear case is reached are also of high importance. Therefore, seven issues should be mentioned here:

1. Attention to independent tendencies on both sides: This is the first common denominator which is seriously needed by both players under the existing circumstances. However, unilateral sanctions against Iran by EU, which exceed the UN sanctions, have limited use of independence seeking potentials of these international players. Possible adjustment of sanctions by the European Union will turn a new leaf which may provide conditions for this potential to be taken advantage of.

2. Bilateral soft power potentials: The EU vision plan for 2030 has mentioned soft power resources as the main asset of the Union. Iran also enjoys high soft power potentials. Tourism, exchange of students and professors, and Track 2 diplomacy are good instruments to take advantage of this common asset which will play an important role in improving bilateral interactions. The more we give room to common art, culture and values, the smoother will diplomatic measures be taken.

3. Taking advantage of both players’ institutional capacities: This factor may help to bolster bilateral relations and remove obstacles. Attention to institutional variables, both within the European Union and in Iran’s decision-making system, is an important consideration which will help to build mutual confidence and establish peace. It will also prevent personal views to influence major decisions, thus, facilitating movement in the general direction of convergence.

4. Common understanding of important issues in the Middle East: Important issues in the Middle East such as Arab-Israeli conflict, guarantees for energy security, stability in Iraq, immigration, drug trafficking, refugees, and organized crime are among common areas where the interests, viewpoints and strategic vulnerabilities of Iran and EU overlap. Therefore, every Iranian or European citizen or politician can work to strengthen such common interests and promote convergence between Iran’s and the EU’s viewpoints in these areas in order to solve the existing problems.
5. Sustained recognition of partners’ rights: EU members can adopt a mediatory approach by convincing other members of 5+1 to respect Iran’s legitimate nuclear rights in order to eliminate misunderstandings and build confidence. Iran, on the other hand, should exhibit a positive attitude toward activities and institutional structures of the Union considering that the EU represents one of the most important and most successful instances of an institutional model influencing international equations.

6. Attention to economic and trade capacities: Economic and trade interests of Iran and the EU, especially in such areas as technology, energy, and petrochemicals, are closely interrelated. The European Union and all member states should decide to waive sanctions against Iran and, in return, Iran should work more with the EU to do away with the existing differences in a bid to strengthen bilateral relations.

Active Image7. Commitment to confidence building and strategic convincement aimed at finding peaceful solution to the nuclear issue: Bilateral efforts aimed at solving this issue through confidence building will lead to détente, new solutions, and new hopes about the future outlook of Iran’s nuclear activities.

Due to the their considerable economic, trade, civil, and soft power significance to the international system, commitment of both Iran and the EU to confidence building along with mediatory measures will certainly help them to get at a transparent, coherent, constructive, lasting, and mutually beneficial solution. Such a solution is sure to prevent domination of hard and costly views that dominate certain American or NATO-centered approaches and will also clear the way for diplomacy to govern Iran’s interactions with 5+1.

At present, both Iran and the European Union need to dispel the existing concerns and misunderstandings through purposive and constructive talks while avoiding the illogical trap that “I will take my first step only after you have taken yours.” In fact, both sides should try through a problem-solving approach during the next round of negotiations in Istanbul to reach a final conclusion. Under such circumstances, looking at the subject at hand from a totally different standpoint may, sometimes, offer new hope.

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