Tehran-Rome Relations: Looking to the Future on the Background of a Prosperous Past

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Under new conditions that govern Iran's foreign relations, the Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, along with Italy’s Minister of Economic Development Federica Guidi, arrived in Iran on August 4 for a two-day visit. During their stay in the Iranian capital, the two high-ranking Italian officials are scheduled to meet and confer with various political and economic officials in Iran.

The following points are noteworthy with regard to recent visits to Tehran by Italian officials:

1. Italy was among the first countries in the world to recognize the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and since that time, political relations between Tehran and Rome have been based on stability and mutual understanding. During all these years, the Italians have tried as much as possible to have peaceful relations with Iran free from tensions and without regard for any external variables.

2. During past decades, the economic interaction between Iran and Italy has been remarkable. The first joint economic commission between the two countries convened in Tehran in 1989. By and by, economic relations between Tehran and Rome expanded in various sectors and there was even a time when the total value of trade exchanges between the two countries hit as high as seven billion euros. In the meantime, issues like energy constituted the most important grounds for the expansion of relations between the two countries with Italy being among major customers of the Iranian crude oil in Europe.

Before sanctions were imposed on Tehran, Iran and Italy enjoyed stable economic relations. Under the seventh and eighth post-revolution Iranian administrations (from 1997 to 2005), the two sides made great efforts to promote their political and economic relations and the visit paid to Italy by then Iranian President Seyed Mohammad Khatami in 1998 was indicative of the importance that Tehran and Rome attached to strengthening of their relations.

3. The volume of trade exchanges between Iran and Italy stood at about two billion euros in 1999 and was increased by more than three times that figure in 2005. However, from the second half of 2006, due to the escalation of tensions between Tehran and the West over Iran's peaceful nuclear activities, the volume of trade exchanges between the two countries started to fall and their trade ties were greatly slowed down.

Since Italy complied with international sanctions against Iran, the volume of trade between the two countries fell from seven billion euros in that year to 3.6 billion euros the following year. The figure then further dropped to 1.2 billion euros in 2013. According to available statistics, trade exchanges between Tehran and Rome remained at the same historical low in 2014.

4. After the election of the eleventh administration in Iran and due to the importance that it attached to the motto of “constructive interaction” in foreign relations and its emphasis on the need to expand balanced ties with other countries, a high-ranking official of the Italian Foreign Ministry took part in swearing-in ceremony of President Hassan Rouhani in a gesture which was construed as Italy’s message of friendship and a sign of the European country’s readiness to mend fences with Iran.

In view of this background of goodwill, following the recent nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers and the beginning of the post-sanctions era in Iran's relations with the world, it is not difficult for Iran and Italy to revive their prosperous relations of the past. So, if necessary grounds are provided and the two countries recognize their mutual capabilities and advantages, it is possible to speed up the process of cooperation between Tehran and Rome.

5. Italian officials are well aware that the region and the world are now experiencing sensitive conditions due to the spread of extremism and the activities of terrorist groups, especially in view of the presence of ISIS in North Africa and Libya, which is just across Italy’s sea border in the Mediterranean. Under these circumstances, the Islamic Republic of Iran is considered the most important and the most stable country in the Middle East, which has also proved its power in fighting ISIS.

Therefore, in addition to common economic interests, the two countries are also facing a common threat in the form of extremism and terrorism. Within this framework, expansion of political, economic and even security relations between Tehran and Rome can not only lead to bilateral convergence at various levels, but also greatly help establishment of stability and security in the region and the world.

On the whole, frequent reciprocal visits exchanged by Iranian and Italian officials prove that by banking on their past relations, Tehran and Rome are trying to establish stable, dynamic and expanded ties in various political and economic areas in the post-sanctions era. Therefore, through good understanding of the common grounds for cooperation, the two countries will be able to delineate a stable future outlook for their bilateral relations free from the influences of possible political fluctuations.

Key Words: Tehran-Rome Relations, Iran, Italy, Paolo Gentiloni, Federica Guidi, Sanctions, Political-Economic Relations, Constructive Interaction, ISIS, Middle East, Terrorism, Hassan Rouhani, Stability, Security

Source: IRNA
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

*Photo Credit: ISNA

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