Zarif: We suffer from dialogue deficit in our region
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Middle East countries suffer from a dialogue deficit.
Zarif made the remarks on Monday while addressing the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Press TV reported.
He said that Saudi Arabia is trying to introduce Iran as a regional threat, while adding that more dialogue is needed among regional states.
“We believe, in our region we suffer from dialogue deficit. We don’t talk to each other. We talk a lot about each other, particularly when we come here. Our neighbors, particularly Saudi Arabia, want to create an impression that we are an existential threat against them. You just saw a very expensive two-week tour of the United States and that was one of the most important messages that wanted to be presented,” he added.
Zarif noted that regional countries need to break away from the paradigm of exclusion which prevails in the region.
The Iranian foreign minister also said the era of zero sum games is long over.
“In the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries there are no winners; only the degree and amount of loss will be different. In the globalized era... you cannot have security at the expense of insecurity of others,” he said. “The era of hegemonic influence is long gone,” and, he added, neither Iran, nor Saudi Arabia can be hegemonic powers in region.
“We need to realize and appreciate this fact, however heart-breaking it may be, none of us can become this new hegemon,” he added.
Zarif also said that without mutual respect, there can be no dialogue between Tehran and Washington.
No prospects for Iran-US dialogue
He added under the present circumstances and with the current tone of the US government there are no prospects for dialogue between Tehran and Washington.
“My aim is to start a process that I can have some hope. I mean, you cannot start a process just because, I mean, stop the process, or not engage, just because of a fear of failure. But at least you need to have some hope of success, some prospect for success, in order for this process to start. And I do not believe that, under the present circumstances, with the present tone, and language and approach of the current administration in Washington, you would have much prospect,” he said.
The Iranian foreign minister also went on to defend the presence of Iranian military advisors in Syria.
“I think you need to thank us for preventing Damascus, Baghdad, and Erbil, mind you, from falling in the hands of ISIS (Daesh), because, then, instead of a terrorist organization, you would have had two terrorist states,” he added.
“I’m saying categorically, let us stop the war in Syria and Iraq... and Yemen tomorrow. And, if you see Iran not doing its best to stop that war, then you can accuse us of any moral degradation that you want,” he added.
Qatar replacing UAE as hawala trade hub for Iran
Iran will use Qatar to facilitate payment orders in foreign currencies, phasing out such operations in Dubai where restrictions imposed by the UAE government are making financial transactions difficult.
In a report on Tuesday, Fars News Agency quoted what it described as a senior official at the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) as saying, “Several Iranian banks have opened accounts with Qatar National Bank, through which the transactions of payment orders in foreign currencies will be carried out.”
The unnamed CBI official added, “Due to the difficulties that have arisen with Dubai in foreign exchange transfers, forex relations are expanding with Qatar.”
He noted. “Our effort is to turn Qatar into a forex hub” for Iranian financial transactions and fill the void as a result of problems with Dubai.
Dubai emerged as an important link between Iran’s economy and the rest of the world after the Islamic Republic was frozen out of the international banking system under intensified US and European sanctions in 2011.
Unauthorized dealers replaced normal banking channels to process flows of money into and out of Iran, providing currency to ordinary Iranians and turning Dubai into a center for handling trade and investment for Iran.
The system being used is called hawala, under which dealers take in payments in Dubai and pay out in Iran through their connections.
The dealers were licensed by UAE authorities and while the hawala trade initially did not appear to violate any regulations, new restrictions are reportedly complicating it.
The practice has also created problems in Iran where dealers have been at the center of a rush by some Iranians buying foreign currencies in the face of the depreciating rial.
Iran joins Russia-led free trade zone
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has approved a draft interim agreement establishing free trade zone between the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and Iran.
The order was published on Tuesday on the website of the Russian government. The agreement provides for the formation of a free-trade zone for certain goods and is subject to ratification, as it contains rules different from those stipulated by the Russian law, TASS reported.
Talks between the two countries on a free-trade deal started three years ago but were repeatedly postponed.
According to Russia’s Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak, who is also co-head of the Russian-Iranian Intergovernmental Commission, the agreement “will obviously trigger further development of our bilateral trade and expansion of investment cooperation”.
Continued on Page 4
Syrian government plans to retake north Homs from terrorists next
Russia: US has no intention to leave Syria
The Syrian government plans to recapture a terrorist-held pocket north of Homs city soon after it completes surrender deals with terror groups around the capital Damascus, a Syrian government minister said on Tuesday.
Having taken back the largest terrorist-held area near Damascus, Eastern Ghouta, in early April, the Syrian Army and allied forces are close to recovering the remaining few pockets around the capital.
Pro-government forces have been pounding enclave in south Damascus where the Daesh terror group holds a pocket next to one held by other terrorist factions.
In recent days, terrorists in two other enclaves northeast of Damascus, Dumair and east Qalamoun, surrendered and agreed to be transferred by bus to a territory in northern Syria.
Ali Haidar, the Syrian minister responsible for national reconciliation, told Reuters in an interview the government would focus on recovering a terrorist-held pocket north of the city of Homs after securing the areas around Damascus.
“The issue will not be a long time coming after the final resolution in Qalamoun,” Haidar said.
Haidar said the government had for a while been dropping leaflets and communicating with terrorists in the towns of Rastan, Talbiseh and Houla in northern Homs province.
“Today there is serious work in that area,” he said.
“Armed groups wait to feel the seriousness and determination of the state’s military action before they approach serious discussion of a reconciliation agreement.”
Haidar said such reconciliation deals are also on offer to terrorists in southern Syria, where a de-escalation zone was agreed by the United States and Russia last year.
“The options are open: full reconciliation or military action where necessary.”
But he indicated that retaking areas around Damascus and Homs – the last terrorist areas entirely besieged by the government – were the immediate priorities.
On Friday state media said terrorists had surrendered in the south Damascus enclave, which includes the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp, Hajar al-Aswad district and neighboring areas. But pro-Syrian government forces were still bombarding the area by Tuesday.
Haidar said the terrorists had subsequently refused the deal and the military option was now being used.
On Tuesday Syrian state media showed footage of smoke rising from the Hajar al-Aswad area south of Damascus and said the bombardment was targeting terrorist positions.
US seeks to stay
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday the United States had no intention to leave Syria despite Washington saying it had such plans, the RIA state news agency said.
Lavrov told reporters in Beijing he hoped it would become clearer how to cooperate on settling the Syrian issue after contacts with his counterparts from France.
France sharply condemns Israel: We oppose indiscriminate firing on Gaza protesters
France, in a statement, slammed Israeli forces for firing at demonstrators at the Gaza fence.
France denounced “the indiscriminate firing by the Israeli army at demonstrators in Gaza” in a statement released Monday by the French Foreign Ministry.
“What does France plan on doing in concrete terms, not just in words, to stop this weekly massacre that continues while the world remains silent?” asked the statement, according to haaretz.com.
Israel has defended its handling of the protests, in which 39 Palestinians have been killed by army fire, according to authorities in Gaza.
The military has opened an official inquiry into some of the incidents over the past month, including the killings of photojournalist Yaser Murtaja and 15-year-old Mohammed Ayoub.
“President Macron shared his concern over the situation in Gaza during his telephone conversation on April 21 with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas,” Monday’s statement read.
“It is imperative to end the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip by ending the blockade and lifting restrictions, as well as through credible security guarantees for Israel.
“Once again, France condemns the indiscriminate firing by the Israeli army on demonstrators in Gaza and deplores the five latest deaths in the past few days,” it continued.
“We reiterate our demand for restraint on the part of the concerned authorities and for a proportionate use of force consistent with international humanitarian law. We remind them of the duty to protect civilians, particularly minors, and of the Palestinians’ right to demonstrate peacefully.
“France will continue its efforts to achieve a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians, the only way to return to the path of peace,” the statement concluded.
The statement also noted remarks by the aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres, which has said that medical teams have given postoperative care to people “with devastating injuries of an unusual severity, which are extremely complex to treat. The injuries sustained by patients will leave most with serious, long-term physical disabilities.”
‘Stop shooting at children’
A war of words also erupted on Twitter Friday between the UN’s Mideast envoy and the former spokesman for the Israeli military over the killing of the 15-year-old Palestinian, Mohammed Ayoub. The teenager was standing with a group around 100-150 meters from the fence when he was shot, Palestinian medical sources said.
The Twitter confrontation began with an unusually fiery tweet by UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov, who condemned the teenager’s killing, which Gaza’s Health Ministry said was a result of Israeli live fire. Mladenov described the incident as outrageous and said “the killing of a child” in Gaza “fuels anger and breeds more killing.” He added that the incident must be investigated.
UN human rights experts last Tuesday slammed Israeli forces for killing mostly unarmed Palestinians near the Gaza fence by using firearms, including live ammunition.
A series of demonstrations began March 30 and are set to continue until May 15.
The participants are protesting their forced evictions and displacement since 1948 and calling for an end to the 11-year blockade on Gaza.
FIFA set to discuss new competitions
FIFA is planning to hold a special meeting next month at which two lucrative tournaments could be given the go-ahead.
Football’s world governing body is said to have held “promising” consultations in recent weeks with regional confederations, individual football associations and leading clubs over the creation of a revamped Club World Cup and a new ‘Nations League’, BBC Sport reported.
The tournaments would generate $25 billion (£17.9 billion) in revenue.
A source close to the organization told BBC Sport that if the governing body believes there is an appetite for the competitions, it will invite its ruling council members to an extraordinary session which will likely be held at its headquarters in Zurich and is tentatively scheduled for mid-May.
Europe’s elite clubs have recently called for fewer matches, mandatory rest periods for players, and the alignment of confederation tournaments but FIFA officials are confident their proposals meet those demands and have held “positive” talks with top sides in recent days.
“Not everyone will agree with this but we want to give an opportunity to discuss the offer that has been made,” said the source.
“The discussions so far have been promising. This is not about selling football. We have serious investors and the secure finances would be shared with everyone involved in the game.”
Attendees at FIFA ‘s annual congress, which is being staged in Moscow this year on the eve of the World Cup, will be asked whether or not to approve a feasibility study to examine if the 2022 edition should be expanded to 48 teams.
The World Cup is already due to expand to 48 teams from the 2026 tournament, after FIFA approved an expansion from 32 last year.
Qatar won the right to host the 2022 event but has been mired in controversy and allegations of corruption ever since.
If approved, the study will examine if it is possible for Qatar to successfully host an additional 16 teams given the extra games and logistical challenges such a move would inevitably create.
The study would also seek to find answers to whether it could become a regional event with Qatar’s neighboring countries invited to stage some of the games.
Qatar has always insisted that it did nothing wrong when bidding for the tournament and, when the idea of 48 teams was first raised earlier this month by South American football associations, organizers said in a statement “we are confident in our ability to deliver a successful World Cup in 2022”.
FIFA’s leadership is not keen on two of its existing tournaments. It wants to reform and expand the Club World Cup, scrap the Confederations Cup – used as a warmup by the World Cup hosts in the year before the tournament – and introduce a ‘Nations League’.
In documents sent to confederation leaders, which have been seen by BBC Sport, FIFA says it wants to “[deepen] the relationship between fans and the game on a worldwide basis. This is clearly not happening with the existing FIFA Club World Cup and FIFA Confederations Cup.”
Actor: Iranian films lend validity to world film festival
By Sadeq Dehqan
Iranian cinema enjoys a fine status and its films are giving validity to international world festivals, said a prominent Iranian actor.
Speaking to Iran Daily, Majid Mozaffari noted that Iranian films are well-known in the world and their screening in international festivals must be continued.
He added that Fajr International Film Festival (FIff) is effective in forming and developing Iran’s diplomacy with other countries, noting that the exchange of cinematic products with other countries will have a great impact on Iran’s cinema and culture.
Touching upon Fajr Film Market, he said that it is an appropriate venue for Iranian filmmakers to make their presence felt at the international level since Iranian cinema would not be seen in the world without worldwide distribution.
He suggested that given that Iranian investors purchase a few cinema halls in the US and Europe, the possibility of screening the films will increase dramatically.
Speaking about the quality of FIff36, he said that in view of the festival’s budgetary restrictions, the event is being held at an appropriate level in general and at Darolfonoon and Films Market sections in particular.
Despite limitations in the choice of foreign films taking part in the festival, he said, those who were in charge did their best to select the top films for the event.
The festival’s organizers went to great lengths to select films which are more social and meaningful, he said.
He advised that the process of educating young talents by experienced experts in Darolofonoon section (a talent campus) should not be limited to the Fajr festival which is held once a year.
He added that all international figures who come to Iran are accompanied by their colleagues and they can continue holding the courses after Fajr festival.
“We should benefit from the experiences of these people and thus their presence should not be limited to holding courses and having dialogues with a few cinematic figures, instead we should have them watch Iranian movies and use their film reviews and opinions.”
Elaborating on his current projects, Mozaffari said that at present he is involved in the producing the play ‘Theater Foundation’ which is written by renowned cinema and theater actor Ali Nasirian and directed by Hadi Marzban. The play went on stage once in 1975 and is scheduled to go on stage again after 43 years.
Presided over by writer-cum-director Reza Mirkarimi, the 36th Fajr International Film Festival began on April 19 and will continue until April 27.
Oil tops $75, highest since 2014 OPEC cuts
Oil rose above $75 a barrel on Tuesday to its highest since November 2014 before paring some gains, supported by OPEC-led production cuts, strong demand and the prospect of a US pullout from the Iran nuclear deal.
Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose to its highest level since OPEC on Nov. 27, 2014 turned its back on curbing output to support prices, a move that triggered a battle for market share and helped deepen a collapse to $27 in early 2016, Reuters reported.
Oil prices began to recover in 2016 as OPEC discussed a return to market management with the help of Russia and other non-members. A supply-cutting deal started in January 2017 and has been deepened by a steep output drop in Venezuela.
“Prices are being driven up by tight supply due to high production outages in Venezuela plus the cuts implemented by OPEC and Russia,” said Carsten Fritsch, analyst at Commerzbank. “What is more, demand appears robust.”
Brent LCOc1 traded as high as $75.27, gaining for a sixth day, and was up 4 cents at $74.75 by 1315 GMT. US crude CLc1 rose 3 cents to $68.67, having hit its highest since Nov. 28, 2014 on Thursday.
The United States has until May 12 to decide whether to quit a nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose sanctions against the third-largest producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, tightening global supplies.
“Currently, all bets are off on the US staying in the nuclear agreement,” said Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM, who added this concern was the most significant element of Brent’s recent rally.
Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia-Pacific at futures brokerage OANDA, said new sanctions against Tehran “could push oil prices up as much as $5 per barrel”.
OPEC’s supply curtailments and the threat of new sanctions are occurring as demand in Asia, the biggest oil-consuming region, has risen to a record.
The supply cut has virtually achieved its stated goal of reducing inventories in developed economies to their five-year average, but OPEC has shown little sign yet of wanting to wind down the deal.
Canadian police seek motive in deadly van attack
Police in Canada’s biggest city were piecing together witness accounts and surveillance video trying to determine why a driver plowed a rented van along a crowded sidewalk, killing 10 people and injuring 15 in what many said seemed a deliberate attack.
A 25-year-old suspect was quickly captured in a tense but brief confrontation with officers a few blocks away from where his van jumped the sidewalk Monday and continued for a mile, leaving people bloodied and dead in his wake. But authorities so far had not disclosed a possible motive or cause even as the police chief agreed with witnesses that it seemed intentional, AP reported on Tuesday.
“The incident definitely looked deliberate,” Police Chief Mark Saunders told reporters at a late-night news conference.
Saunders said the suspect, Alek Minassian, who lives in the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill, had not been known to police previously. An online social media profile described him as a college student.
Officials would not comment on a possible motive except to play down a possible connection to terrorism, a thought that occurred to many following a series of attacks involving trucks and pedestrians in Europe and the presence in Toronto this week of Cabinet ministers from the G7 nations.
Asked if there was any evidence of a terrorist link, the chief said only, “Based on what we have there’s nothing that has it to compromise the national security at this time.”
A senior national government official said earlier that authorities had not turned over the investigation to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a sign that investigators believed it was unlikely that terrorism was the motive. The official agreed to reveal that information only if not quoted by name.
Authorities released few details in the case, saying the investigation was still underway, with witnesses being interviewed and surveillance video being examined.
“I can assure the public all our available resources have been brought in to investigate this tragic situation,” Toronto Police Services Deputy Chief Peter Yuen said earlier.
Police said the suspect was scheduled to appear in court at 10 a.m. Tuesday, and that information on the charges against him would be released at that time.
The incident occurred as Cabinet ministers from the major industrial countries were gathered in Canada to discuss a range of international issues in the run-up to the G7 meeting near Quebec City in June. Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale called the incident a “horrific attack” and said the G7 foreign ministers extended their condolences.
The driver was heading south on busy Yonge Street around 1:30 p.m. and the streets were crowded with people enjoying an unseasonably warm day when the van jumped onto the sidewalk.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his sympathies for those involved.
“We should all feel safe walking in our cities and communities,” he said. “We are monitoring this situation closely, and will continue working with our law enforcement partners around the country to ensure the safety and security of all Canadians.”
Rouhani warns of ‘severe consequences’ if US exits nuclear deal
Russia, China call for salvage of JCPOA
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned US President Donald Trump on Tuesday to remain in the nuclear deal Tehran signed with world powers in 2015, or face “severe consequences.”
“I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments… the Iranian government will firmly react,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on national television.
“If anyone betrays the deal, they should know that they would face severe consequences,” he told a cheering crowd of thousands gathered in the city of Tabriz during a visit to the area. “Iran is prepared for all possible situations,” he added.
The Iranian nation and government will “strongly resist” any plots by those who sit in the White House, he added, saying that Iran has prepared for “various scenarios” while it abided by its commitments under the deal.
Iran has warned it will ramp up its nuclear activities if the deal, which curbed its nuclear enrichment program in exchange for lifting international sanctions, collapses.
The US under President Donald Trump has repeatedly threatened to pull out of the historical agreement, which was struck between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 group of countries, including Washington itself.
The deal removed nuclear-related sanctions against Tehran, which, in turn, changed some aspects of its nuclear energy program. All other signatories have warned the US against quitting the deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Trump did not recertify the JCPOA in January but extended the main sanctions waivers and gave the Europeans until the next waiver deadline on May 12 to come up with solutions to the “terrible flaws” of the deal.
“No one can frustrate this great nation and steal from it the hope for the future,” Rouhani emphasized.
Amid Trump’s threats, other parties have stepped up diplomatic efforts to save the deal.
European leaders are also scrambling to save the deal.
French President Emmanuel Macron is in Washington this week lobbying Trump to preserve the pact, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel due in the US capital on Friday.
In a UN non-proliferation conference in Geneva, Russia and China submitted a draft statement affirming their “unwavering support for the comprehensive and effective implementation” of the deal.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s Director General for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, Vladimir Yermakov, told the meeting that the JCPOA was fragile and any attempt to amend it would affect the global non-proliferation regime.
Yermakov urged all nations at the UN nuclear meeting to sign on.
Continued on Page 2