North Africa, Egypt Getting Closer to Iran

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Javid Ghorbanoghli
Former Foreign Ministry Director for African Affairs & Expert on International Affairs

The impacts of the achievement and  implementation of Iran's nuclear agreement with the member states of the P5+1 group, which is also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), are global in scope, and the agreement must be studied within this global framework. I believe that this agreement and its implementation have taken Iran's foreign relations out of the deadlock and will help free the amount of diplomatic energy that our country has spent on this issue so far. In addition, great opportunities will be provided within framework of foreign relations. We witnessed in a recent speech by the US President Barack Obama that he described the nuclear agreement as one of the great achievements of his administration. Therefore, the issue of the implementation of JCPOA goes far beyond Iran's foreign relations in the Middle East and North Africa. However, this article will focus on this part of Iran's foreign relations.

I believe that after being freed, the energy of Iran's diplomatic apparatus must be channeled toward our neighboring countries, because Iran's preoccupation with this [nuclear] case had caused it to unintentionally neglect regional relations, and unfortunately, we have witnessed untoward effects and consequences of this neglect as well. If, under the present circumstances, we took a clear-cut approach and policy toward our own region and neighboring countries, I believe that at least in this region in which we live, Saudi Arabia, as an important element that was also among staunch opponents of JCPOA, will have to bow to and accept the reality of this important international development. At least, from now on, it will not be able to oppose us openly. We know that this country’s opposition throughout the course of nuclear negotiations had affected the entire region and it will have to show more resilience and submit to the global will following the conclusion of JCPOA. This issue will first show its impact in Iraq and Syria followed by Bahrain and Yemen.

We need to manage our differences with Saudi Arabia over these issues and the model that I propose for this management is to take advantage of the same win-win strategy. If we could reach an agreement with the world over our most important issue, which was the nuclear case, through this approach, then we should be able to reach similar agreements over challenging regional issues as well. Let’s not forget that the international community will support that country, which will seek to create peace in the region. Therefore, in the period following JCPOA, Saudi Arabia will have no other choice but to get along with the global will to create peace. The important point is that we must seek a win-win strategy in reality and do not try to simply marginalize or defeat a single country.

JCPOA will also affect our relations with other regional countries. North Africa and Egypt constitute a large portion of this region. It must be noted that apart from Egypt, we do not have any major problem with other countries in North Africa. I believe that we must remain indifferent toward Egypt as a country whose government is the product of a coup d’état, which has ignored the will of its people, because within framework of this [nuclear] agreement that we are implementing, Egyptians will have to finally get closer to us. As for other African countries, I believe that they will hail the implementation of JCPOA. Although they never took a sharp step against us, they were cautious about having close relations with us due to pressures from the West and following the JCPOA, they are sure to take more effective steps toward bolstering their ties with our country.

It is noteworthy that the most important country in this part of the world, that is, South Africa, has already gotten in line for mending fences with Iran and sent its vice president at the top of a high-ranking delegation to Iran last month. Such a behavior on the part of South Africa is representative of the approach adopted by the whole African continent, which means all 44 countries of this continent, and we must welcome this move. My recommendation to Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and other senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to take this part of the world seriously and start moves to improve diplomatic relations with these countries. In doing so, they will help bridge the existing differences and, at the same time, they must take into account ramping up economic activities, especially by the Iranian private sector, in this continent.

Key WordsNorth Africa, Egypt, Iran, Implementation, Iran's Nuclear Agreement, P5+1, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Regional Relations, Saudi Arabia, Win-Win Strategy, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Ghorbanoghli

Source: Shargh Daily
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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