Spanish, Dutch FMs visiting Tehran
Foreign ministers of Spain and the Netherlands are paying visits to Tehran, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said.
Foreign Minister of Spain Alfonso Dastis and his Dutch counterpart Sigrid Kaag’s visits are aimed at reviewing ways to reinforce bilateral relations, Qassemi said on his Telegram news account, IRNA reported.
The Spanish foreign minister is planning to discuss investment with Iranian officials during his two-day visit to Tehran, according to Spanish newspaper ABC.
According to ABC, unlike the 2016 visits by ex-Spanish FM José Manuel García-Margallo, the Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism of Spain, José Manuel Soria López and Minister of Public Works Ana Pastor Julián who were accompanied by economic and trade delegation, no trade entourage will accompany Dastis.
Iran, in May, 2017, signed a deal worth $615 million (€550 million) with a Spanish-Iranian consortium under which the group will provide pipes for Iran’s oil industry.
That was the first major deal for Iran’s oil industry since President Hassan Rouhani’s reelection last year on a platform of reform and greater openness to the international community.
The consortium, which includes Spain’s Tubacex SA and Iran’s Esfahan Steel Company, will produce pipes made of a corrosion resistant alloy for a network of 600 kilometers, or about 370 miles, over three years.
After resuming oil swap, Iran’s exports to Spain increased 26 times and the country’s imports also surged 80 percent.
Iranian Ambassador to Spain Mohammad-Hassan Fadaei-Fard also said that the foreign minister’s visit is going to be the beginning of a positive change in the ties between the two countries.
The visit was to be made in October 2017, the envoy added, but due to the Catalonia independence referendum, it was delayed.
There were no details on the Dutch foreign minister’s visit to Tehran.
DAkkS awards Iranian petchem plant validity certificate
The quality control laboratory of Iran’s Jam Petrochemical Company was awarded the International Certificate of Validity by the national accreditation body for the Federal Republic of Germany, DAkkS.
The certificate was issued after evaluators from DAkkS visited the laboratory in two phases in the summer and obtained the information to meet the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025 standard, Shana reported.
Jam Petrochemical Company’s laboratory is the first of its kind in Iran that has managed to obtain this certificate following the implementation, in January 2016, of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was signed between Iran and P5+1.
The certificate entails 75 measurement and sampling standards, which, in its kind, is the largest approved scope of work approved by this agency in Iran.
Iranian passenger jet wreckage found
Iranian forces located the debris of a missing plane that crashed in the country’s mountainous area on Sunday, killing all people on board.
Spokesman for Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif said that helicopters had spotted the wreckage of the plane on Tuesday morning, which was operated by Iran Aseman Airlines.
A satellite image shows what seems to be debris and bodies at the crash site of the ill-fated Iranian airliner.
The head of the Isfahan Province medical emergency center said that helicopters could not land at the crash site to transfer the bodies due to adverse weather and topographical conditions, Press TV reported.
The captain of the helicopter that spotted the wreckage said the plane had crashed 30 meters below a hilltop.
The fuselage has been broken into pieces and only a part bearing Aseman Airlines logo is visible, he added.
An official of the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) had said earlier that 80 search teams were conducting an operation at Mount Dena in the Zagros mountain range after weather conditions improved.
Four IRCS helicopters had flown over the region as part of efforts to find the crash site, he added.
Iran’s Air Force F-14 fighter jets also flew over Dena Mount while army parachutists and commandos along with mount climbers continued the ground search and rescue operations.
Authorities hoped searchers would recover the aircraft’s “black boxes” later Tuesday. That equipment, typically painted in a bright color to allow searchers to easily find it, records cockpit conversations and radio transmissions, as well as other data from a flight.
The Aseman Airlines ATR-72 plane, which was over 24 years old, was flying from the Iranian capital, Tehran, to the southwestern city of Yasuj on Sunday when it disappeared 50 minutes into the flight around the town of Semirom in Isfahan Province.
All on board Flight EP3704 were killed, including 60 passengers and six crew members.
A seven-member delegation from France, including officials from the French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR, arrived in Iran on Monday to assist the investigation.
Phone signals transmitted after crash
According to data cited by the Flight Safety Foundation’s aviation-safety.net website, the plane had been restored to service just three months ago after being in storage for six years.
Meanwhile, the Isfahan Province emergency center said that a mobile phone had transmitted signals from a location near Mount Dena where helicopters did not manage to reach the previous day due to bad weather.
Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran’s minister of information and communications technology, also confirmed that the mobile phone of one of the passengers had been on after the crash and was sending signals from an area near the village of Kohangan.
An official at Iran Civil Aviation Organization said that the pilot had not declared an emergency situation and that the plane’s emergency locator transmitter (ELT) had not transmitted signals after the incident.
Iran has suffered several plane crashes in the past few decades. Tehran blames US sanctions for preventing it from importing new aircraft or spare parts.
A deal with world powers on Iran’s nuclear program has lifted some of those sanctions, opening the way for Iranian airlines to update their fleets but many older planes are still in service, particularly on domestic routes.
Five Iranian security forces killed in Tehran attacks
Five Iranian security forces were killed in a series of attacks by members of a Dervish cult in northern Tehran, where the assailants held an illegal gathering and engaged in clashes with police.
In one of the incidents, which took place overnight in Tehran’s Pasdaran neighborhood, one attacker ploughed a bus through a group of policemen, killing three of them, said General Saeed Montazer-al-Mahdi, a police spokesman, Press TV reported.
The attack came during an unauthorized gathering by the so-called Gonabadi Dervishes near a police station, during which they engaged in clashes with ordinary people and police forces, according to officials.
Montazer-al-Mahdi later said in a Telegram post that two members of the Basij volunteer force had also lost their lives in separate car-ramming and stabbing attacks at the site.
The bus also struck several parked cars and injured several pedestrians. The assailants further damaged cars and broke the windows of nearby buildings.
As many as 30 security forces and several rioters were injured in the attacks.
IRNA reported that more than 300 people, among them the drivers of the bus and the car as well as the main elements behind the incident, had been arrested.
Montazer-al-Mahdi said security forces managed to restore calm and order to the area in the early hours of Tuesday.
Rouhani warns of plots to disintegrate regional states
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned against plots to disintegrate regional states in talks with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, calling for enhanced cooperation to eliminate such security concerns.
The region is today witnessing “plots to partition [regional states] and attempts to establish puppet governments, and we must make efforts to resolve these security concerns through all-out cooperation,” Rouhani told Erdogan in a phone conversation on Monday.
During the talks, the two presidents exchanged views on the latest developments in the region, including the Syria situation, Press TV reported.
Rouhani said that fighting terrorism, cleansing Syria of terrorists and countering separatist moves in the region are among the common objectives of Iran and Turkey, calling for deeper mutual cooperation in line with implementing agreements reached in Astana, Kazakhstan,
“We should not allow terrorist groups to regain strength and find the opportunity to resurface in the region,” said Rouhani.
Stressing the need for upholding Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Rouhani said security and stability should be restored to the country as soon as possible and all Syrian refugees should have the chance to return home.
Continued on Page 2
Tears and cheers as unified Korean team bows out of Olympics
The joint Korean women’s ice hockey team ended their historic Olympic run Tuesday with a crushing 6-1 defeat to Sweden but still received an emotional standing ovation from the crowd.
The team was hastily assembled following a landmark deal between South and North Korea only a few weeks before the PyeongChang Games, and has 12 North Koreans on its roster, AFP reported.
They have found little success on the ice, shipping 28 goals and scoring only twice in five games.
But they are a crowd favorite at the games in South Korea, hailed as a potent symbol of the “Peace Olympics” in PyeongChang.
The home support roared when the South Korean Han Soo-jin scored to tie the game in the first period, before the Swedes ran out easy winners.
For many, the unified team’s games have been about much more than the score and when the final buzzer sounded, all sides of the arena rose as one, accompanied by a deafening round of applause.
In return, the players bowed deeply.
The Korean team’s head coach, the Canadian Sarah Murray, broke into tears as she watched her players salute the crowd and hugged North Korean coach Pak Chul ho.
“All the sacrifices our players and team have been making, it was worth it,” Murray told reporters.
“The chemistry and the message that our players were able to send – that sports transcends the barriers... they did a great job.”
‘Message of peace’
The addition of North Korean players initially provoked a backlash in the South, with accusations that Seoul was depriving some of its own players of the chance to compete at a home Olympics for political purposes.
But the sight of North and South Korean skaters on the ice together has touched many spectators, with an IOC official even suggesting that the Korean team be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
“The politicians made the decision... but our players and our staff are the ones that made it work,” said Murray, whose team always attracted a packed stadium and a swarm of media at each game.
International Ice Hockey Federation chief, Rene Fasel, has expressed hopes for a unified Korean team at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, referring to them as the bearers of “the message of peace”.
Syrian forces enter Afrin; Turkey ‘shells’ area
Syrian state television showed a convoy of Syrian forces entering the Kurdish-held Afrin region on Tuesday to help fend off a Turkish assault.
The fighters wearing camouflage fatigues waved weapons and Syrian flags from their vehicles as they crossed through a checkpoint that bore the insignia of a Kurdish security force, Reuters reported.
“One Syria, one Syria!” some of them chanted.
“We have come to tell our people in Afrin that we are one,” said a fighter interviewed on state television, referring to the government stance that Syria must remain one country and internal partitions caused by the war must be eradicated.
State news agency SANA accused Turkish forces of shelling territory near the crossing where the “popular forces” entered Afrin.
A spokesman for the YPG also said on Tuesday government forces have started entering Afrin to deploy along the border with Turkey and help defend it against advancing Turkish troops.
Tuesday’s comments by Nouri Mahmoud came nearly an hour after pro-government Syrian forces began entering the Afrin region from the nearby government-held village of Nubul.
Shortly after the forces entered, Turkish troops started shelling the area forcing journalists to flee, according to Syrian state TV.
On Sunday, a Kurdish political official said Damascus had agreed to send Syrian troops into Afrin to help fend off the month-old offensive by Turkey and allied militiamen.
The Syrian government and the YPG have mostly avoided direct conflict during the war, but they espouse very different visions for Syria’s future. Each controls more ground than any other side in the conflict.
Turkey will lay siege to Afrin in northern Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday a month after Ankara launched an offensive against Kurdish militia in the region.
“In the coming days, swiftly, we will lay siege to the center of the town of Afrin,” Erdogan told Parliament, according to AFP.
His remarks came as Turkey’s operation “Olive Branch”, a ground and air offensive against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia which Ankara brands “terrorists”, entered its second month.
While some analysts say Turkey and pro-Ankara Syrian forces have made slow advances, Erdogan defended the operation’s progress, saying it was to avoid putting the lives of both its troops and civilians needlessly “at risk”.
“We did not go there to burn it down,” he said, insisting the operation’s aim was to “create a safe and livable area” for the Syrian refugees inside Turkey, who fled across the border since the conflict began in 2011 and who now number more than three million. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said at least 94 civilians have been killed during Turkey’s offensive.
But Ankara has repeatedly insisted there have been no civilian casualties, saying its armed forces are showing utmost care not to harm civilians.
Turkey says the YPG is a “terrorist” offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.
Iranian duo collects Asian cycling silver
Iran’s madison team grabbed a silver medal at the 2018 Asian Track Championships in Malaysia, taking the country’s tally to three medals at the competitions.
On Tuesday, Iran’s two-a-side team comprising Mehdi Sohrabi and Mohammad Rajablou competed in the final contest of the men’s madison competitions and finished second following the Hong Kong’s team which clinched the gold medal while the South Korean duo settled for the bronze.
Arvin Moazzami and Mohammad Daneshvar had sealed two medals for the country earlier in the championships.
Moazzami had taken the silver in the men’s scratch contest while Daneshvar came third in the men’s 1km time trial.
The 38th edition of the competitions took place at the Velodrom Nasional Malaysia in Nilai, Malaysia, on February 16-20.
Iran’s ‘Numbness’ to compete in Irish Silk Road Film Festival
Iranian short film ‘Numbness’, directed by by Milad Jarmooz, is set to participate in the 7th Silk Road Film Festival in Ireland.
A short synopsis for the flick read: “Setareh (the lead character in the film) is silent. Just one person knows the reason for her silence.”
So far, ‘Numbness’ has taken part in more than 30 international festivals including those in Scotland, the US, Nigeria, Australia, Italy, India, the UK, Ireland, Ukraine, Indonesia, Sweden and Pakistan, ifilmtv.ir wrote.
Earlier, the film received the Best Sound Award at the 3rd Wolves Independent International Film Festival (WIIFF) in Lithuania.
Founded in 2012, the Silk Road International Film Festival (SRIFF) is fast becoming an international acclaimed film festival which is held annually during March in Dublin, Ireland.
In addition to screening international films, there is a special selection of films from the ‘Silk Road’, countries part of the historical network of the Silk Road ancient trade routes.
The selection called “Belt and Road’ includes works from Asian, Arab, Middle Eastern, African, Mediterranean and European cinema.
The event’s 2018 edition is slated for March 7-11, in Dublin, Ireland.
Iran can reform and survive, says VP
When he ran for president of Iran last May “as the voice of reform”, few people saw Es’haq Jahangiri as a serious contender — his candidacy was largely viewed as a tactical maneuver to bolster support for centrist president Hassan Rouhani.
At rallies and in televised debates, he defended Mr. Rouhani’s government, acting as an effective proxy for the president, before stepping down days before the election.
But Mr. Jahangiri’s vociferous election campaign helped establish the four-decade-long stalwart of the Islamic Republic as a possible future presidential candidate, as well as a high profile advocate for reform in his own right.
The republic last month saw the biggest unrest in almost a decade in which 25 people died. In the wake of these protests, Mr. Jahangiri, first vice-president, says the Islamic Republic can reform and survive.
There has already been some liberalization of Iran society since Mr. Rouhani first took office in 2013. “We definitely get worried if people try to resolve their problems in the streets,” Mr. Jahangiri, 61, says in an interview. But he adds that “those who have an accurate understanding of the Islamic Republic know its flexibility in particular vis-à-vis its people is high”.
Asked what the Islamic Republic would do if people objected to the wearing of the hijab, he says it is unclear what the majority of Iranians want. But he adds that “more than 60 per cent of people in Iran still believe they can pursue their demands through reforms . . . and will definitely achieve” what they seek. Mr. Jahangiri — who served as governor of Isfahan province after the 1979 revolution and minister of industries from 1997 to 2005 — argues the economic situation is not as bad as people think it is. Their perception of economic hardship has been partly influenced by hardliner propaganda, he says.
Continued on Page 2