All posts tagged "iran"

Iran promises Hamas support in the fight against Israel

Iran has promised the Palestinian Hamas movement its support in the fight against Israel in the Gaza conflict.

In a telephone conversation with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, the commander of the al-Quds Brigade of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, General Esmail Qa'ani, assured Hamas of his full support on Saturday, Iranian state media reported.

For his part, Haniyeh thanked Iran for its support and said, according to al-Alam news channel, that the fight against Israel was not just Hamas' but of the entire Islamic world.

The Islamist Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by the EU, among others, and has control of the Gaza Strip. Militant Palestinians have been firing rockets at Israel from there for days.

The Israeli army has been reacting with airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.

Earlier, the Iranian foreign minister had cancelled at short notice a visit to Austria planned for Saturday after the government in Vienna hoisted the Israeli flag on its buildings.

The main topic of the meeting would have been the negotiations under way in Vienna to renew the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.

Iran considers Israel its arch-enemy and supports anti-Israeli resistance groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza and the Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon.

The entire Iranian leadership had this week "strongly condemned Israel's brutal and cruel crimes" against the Palestinians.

Nevertheless, Iran is keeping a low profile in the latest conflict. One reason, according to observers, is the nuclear negotiations, which Tehran does not want to jeopardize.

The main issue there is the lifting of US sanctions, which have plunged Iran into an economic crisis over the past two years.

Saudi Arabia seeks positive relations with Iran, crown prince says

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman - Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman speaks during an interview with the Saudi national TV. - -/Saudi Press Agency/dpa

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the kingdom hopes for positive relations with Iran as long as it quits what he said was negative behaviour, as he employed a softer tone while speaking of his country's main rival in the region.

He also defended Saudi Arabia's role in the Yemeni conflict, and hoped the Iran-backed Houthi rebels would come to the negotiating table.

His remarks were made during an interview on national television late Tuesday marking five years since he launched his ambitious Vision 2030 plan that aims to diversify Saudi Arabia's economy.

"In the end, Iran is a neighbouring country. All we hope for is to have a good and special relationship with Iran. We want it to prosper and grow as we have Saudi interests in Iran, and they have Iranian interests in Saudi Arabia," he said.

"The problem we have is with its negative behaviour, whether it is its nuclear programme, support for illegal militias in some countries, or its ballistic missile programme," Mohammed added.

Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, while other countries worry that it is trying to construct weapons.

The two countries severed diplomatic relations in 2016 and are currently facing off in multiple proxy conflicts, including in Yemen.

He said Saudi Arabia is working with partners in the region and the world to find solutions.

"We hope to overcome them and build a good and positive relationship with Iran that would benefit everyone," he said during the interview which lasted for around an hour and a half.

The crown prince's softer tone comes after media reports earlier this month that Saudi and Iranian officials have held talks in Baghdad.

He also said that Saudi Arabia has good relations with the administration of US President Joe Biden, as the two countries agree on 90 per cent of issues of mutual interest and are working to find a common understanding on the rest.

Biden has declared an end to US support for the military campaign in Yemen led by Saudi Arabia, which formed a coalition in 2015 to support government forces fighting the Iran-linked Houthis, who were expanding their control over large areas in Yemen.

The crown prince defended the decision to form the coalition, saying that "no country worldwide would accept to have militias at their borders, or an unlawful armed group at its borders."

He hoped that the Houthis would "prioritize their own and their country's interests" and agree to a ceasefire and sit at the negotiating table with other Yemeni parties.

In March, Saudi Arabia offered a new peace initiative to the Houthi rebels that would include a ceasefire supervised by the United Nations and the reopening of Sana'a airport.

The Houthis dismissed the proposal as "not serious."

During most of the interview, Mohammed spoke of the goals of his Vision 2030 project, which he launched in a bid to pivot away from dependence on oil production and towards other forms of investment including tourism.

He said the plan will create millions of jobs, including 6 million in the capital Riyadh alone, and increase housing projects.

After the kingdom's economy slowed down amid the coronavirus pandemic, he said he expects the kingdom will see a "V-shaped recovery" in 2021.

He also said Saudi Arabia is in talks to sell 1 per cent of its oil giant Aramco to a leading foreign energy company, without naming it.

As part of Vision 2030, the state-owned company sold 1.5 per cent of its shares in an initial public offering in 2019.

Iran and China sign long-term cooperation agreement 

Chinese Foreign Minister in Tehran - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (R) speaks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during their meeting. - -/Iranian Presidency/dpa

Iran and China inked a long-term cooperation agreement in Tehran on Saturday, state television reported.

The comprehensive agreement signed by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, aims to expand bilateral cooperation in various fields in the next 25 years.

The agreement paves the way for billions in Chinese investment in Tehran, and in return, Iran wants to supply oil to Beijing at favourable prices. Military cooperation is also part of the plans.

Iranian President Hassan Rowhani described cooperation with China as strategic and said that the new agreement will deepen this partnership even further. "We want China to be a major trading partner," he said during his meeting with Wang Yi on Saturday.

Iran is facing a crippling economic crisis due to sanctions imposed by the United States in 2018, which have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. With US President Joe Biden seemingly unwilling to lift sanctions in the short term, the government in Tehran has been aligning itself more closely with Russia and China.

Europe to meet US on Iran as nuclear deadline looms

Top diplomats from European powers and the United States will hold talks on Thursday to see how to revive the 2015 deal on Iran's nuclear drive, days ahead of a deadline set by Tehran that could hinder the efforts by limiting inspections.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will host his German and British counterparts in Paris, with America's new top diplomat Antony Blinken joining via videoconference, the French foreign ministry said Wednesday.

Highlighting the tough path ahead, German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced "concern" that Iran was failing to meet its obligations in telephone talks with President Hassan Rouhani, her spokesman said in a statement.

Analysts say only a small window of opportunity remains to save the landmark deal, which received a near-fatal blow when former US president Donald Trump walked out of the accord in 2018.

The administration of Joe Biden has said it is prepared to rejoin the deal and start lifting sanctions if Iran returns to full compliance, a precondition disputed by Tehran.

Ahead of the talks Biden spoke overnight to Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, with the two leaders discussing the "Iranian threat and regional challenges", according to a White House readout.

Adding to the tension, Iran plans to restrict some UN nuclear agency inspections if the US does not lift its sanctions -- imposed since 2018 -- by February 21, under the terms of a bill adopted by its parliament in December.

'On the cards'

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi is to travel to Tehran on Saturday for talks with the Iranian authorities to find a solution for continuing inspections in the country, the agency said.

It warned that the step threatened by Tehran would have "a serious impact on the IAEA's verification and monitoring activities in the country."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that Iran should provide "full and timely cooperation" with the IAEA.

"Iran should reverse the steps and refrain from taking others that would impact the IAEA assurances on which not only the United States, not only our allies and partners in the region, but the entire world relies," he said, adding that Blinken saw an "important role" for the EU.

Ellie Geranmayeh, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said it was "unlikely" the E3/US meeting on Thursday would produce a significant political or economic gesture to prevent Iran from going ahead with the restrictions.

"This deadline has been on the cards for months, and in absence of economic relief Iran's leaders feel compelled to move ahead," she told AFP.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in Vienna in 2015, was based on Iran providing safeguards that it would not make an atomic bomb, in exchange for a gradual easing of international sanctions.

But Iran has stepped up its nuclear work in violation of the accord after US sanctions were reimposed as part of Trump's "maximum pressure" policy to weaken the Iranian regime.

The UN nuclear watchdog said last week that Iran had started producing uranium metal in a new violation of the accord, prompting the European powers to warn that Tehran was "undermining the opportunity for renewed diplomacy."

In her talks with Rouhani, Merkel said that "now was the time for positive signals that create trust and increase the chances of a diplomatic solution".

However the Iranian presidency said Rouhani in the call "criticised Europe's performance" on its JCPOA commitments after the US withdrawal.

'Only action'

While Iran's policy is ultimately determined by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranian presidential elections in June add another time pressure factor.

Rouhani -- a key advocate of nuclear diplomacy with global powers -- is set to step down after serving the maximum two consecutive terms, and a more hardline figure is possibly in line to replace him.

"There is a short window of time to limit the damage that could ensue from Iran's next steps, for example by reducing the impact of such moves on the quality of inspections by international monitors," Geranmayeh said.

She said Washington should move in political and practical terms to show Iran that the Biden administration "is distancing itself from Trump-era maximum pressure."

Khamenei emphasised Wednesday that Iran wanted to see action from the US administration that would help its economy.

"This time, only action, action. If we see action from the opposite side, we will act too," he said.

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